Okay, a little background before I begin.
(This is Lucy, by the by.)
My mom insisted that I keep busy this summer by completing an artistic project every week. This way, I can keep my Facebooking privileges and I don't become a total couch potato this summer. Everyone's happy.
Last week, I knitted a really cute green beret and actually APPLIED MATH to the pattern so it would be the right size for me. (I know. Shut up.)
This week, I sewed buttons onto my black book bag. My mom taught me the right way to thread a needle.
So far, so good!
Now that you have a bit of exposition (my big word of the day) we can get down to my story.
- - -
So we're in Target.
My mom and I were walking down the aisles, looking for a karaoke machine (don't ask). This older woman walks by us and stops, looking at my newly created button bag.
In broken English, she says, "You make this?"
Me: Yes, I did.
"It is beautiful."
"You make those?"
Here she pointed to my bracelets. Two of them were handmade. The rest were not.
She unclasped the necklace around her neck, approached me, and put it around mine.
I tried refusing, but she insisted.
"I want you to have this."
And then she explained why.
"I am Indian. It is in our nature to be generous."
"You will do that," she said, gesturing to my bag, "for the rest of your life. You will make things like jewelry and crafts. It is good to have a hobby because, later in your life, you will learn from it.
"Instead of watching TV or doing drugs (she said this.) you will be creating things. Do not worry, it will pay for itself. But it is very important that you do these things because you grow.
"We are in a recession. But there is NO recession from learning. From an education. You will learn all your life. Teaching would be very good for you, too. Because when you teach, you give information to others, it is a great gift. If you do not teach, you keep the words and ideas inside you and it dies with you.
"I am 65 years old, I know what I am talking about."
I laughed at this, even though she didn't crack a smile.
She went on, asking me about the bag and about my bracelets and telling me where the best elastic could be found for jewelry.
Then she said...
"Nobody can take away what lies between your ears." She pointed to her head here.
"It is very important that you do not forget this. Do not waste your life. Do not waste your time. Do things that matter to you. Remember that the actresses, the artists, the musicians in our world today... they are starving. Do not be like them. Oh, still keep your art inside you, but use your mind to make your way in society. And be sure to do crafts that challenge you. Your... (she paused for the right word)... knowledge will help you in life."
Another pause as her words touched me. And then said, about the necklace:
"It is all the way from India. It looks very beautiful on you."
I was speechless. This was truly the greatest advice I had ever received and all I could manage to reply was:
She finally smiled at me and said, "You will be okay."
And she was gone.
After she left, I was bewildered. We continued our shopping, but I really wasn't paying attention to anything else.
I touched the necklace. It felt heavy on my neck.
I thought about everything she said; everything she talked about and told me.
I will never forget this encounter. And I have the necklace to prove it actually happened.