I have a hearing problem. This diagnosis has nothing to do with my ears and everything to do with my mind. I often hear things that I prefer to hear. And I now know that I’m not alone. Studies, according to Dr. Ozpra Lettergeneres, show… I’m sitting on the LIRR [Long Island Rail Road for you non-New Yorkers] to head downtown to Public House New York City. I got wind of a great opportunity, and although I’m still getting over a minor cold, I decide to make the effort. Plus it’s a chance to meet up with a dear friend and introduce myself to some fabulous women who are on the front lines of an international battle. But more about them in a minute.
“My boyfriend’s going to India without me.” The twenty-ish brunette sitting next to me on the LIRR is telling her friend sitting across from her.
“Excuse me, did you just say ‘India?'” I have really got to work on the nosy thing. I seriously cannot help myself.
“Not India. Indianapolis.”
“Oh.” Not so excited any longer. Plan to read the book I brought with me for the remainder of the train ride.
“You know…the Super Bowl.” Brunette’s friend chimes in.
“Oooooh! Duh. Of course. Wow! That’s cool! Are you guys Giants’ fans?” Can you sense the over-talking attempt to cover up my failure to be in touch with HELLO? A basic piece of information that anyone who is anyone probably knows. The Superbowl is tomorrow. I knew that. And it’s being played in…I got the memo. I just forgot. Cut me some slack. I’m a Bulls fan.
“No. Jets. But it’s on my bucket list.” These girls seem too young to be thinking about their bucket lists.
“To play in the Super Bowl?” I know girls can do pretty much anything, but brunette’s physique would not cut the tackles and tumbles of such a rough game. I didn’t want to break the news to her that if she chose this first, her bucket list might not make it to the end.
“To go to a Super Bowl once in my lifetime would be a dream! But you know how much tickets cost?”
I guess she heard me say “go to.” You see what I mean about how I’m not alone in this?
“No. Actually, I don’t.” I tell the truth.
“$2500 a pop. And the cheap seats are close to a grand.”
“Are you serious!?!” I had no idea.
“That’s why they say it doesn’t even make sense. None of the ‘real’ fans can afford to go.”
This time I leave their world of chit chat as the two woman detail their joint Superbowl party and delve into my book. I hop off the train at Penn and walk several blocks to Lex and 41st. It’s a beautiful night for a walk in the city. I never tire of the city lights, Time’s Square, and the hustle and bustle, but then again, I don’t live or work downtown, so for me this trip is a treat.
When I arrive at Public House New York City, I panic. I don’t know anyone. I should have just stayed home and watched a movie with hubby and the kids. Sigh. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I’m an extrovert. I love people. No one knows me, but that is about to change. Self pep talks work for me. So after a few more seconds of go gettem tiger, I introduce myself to the two women sitting at the info table. Immediately I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am supposed to be here. You know when you’re talking to someone about something, and every word they say resonates a chord in the deepest part of you, and all you can think is: kindred spirit! We are kindred spirits, because we are so on the same page.
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I came out tonight to meet the founders of a Business network called Nomi.
Pronounced Know-Me. They are a little over three years old, and their cause is to help free women from the treacherous life of sex trafficking. They work with women in Cambodia and just recently received a grant to expand to India, specifically in the cities of Kolkata and Bihar.
“Did you say Kolkata?” I needed to be sure.
“Yes. Why, do you want to come?”
“As in, next week February 13th?”
“Yeah. I understand. It’s too soon.”
“Let me think about it.” Okay. Done thinking. Can’t do it. Too much money. Too soon. Too crazy. Hello? I don’t even know how long it would take to get a visa or passport and whatever else I would need to travel internationally.
For the next hour, I learn about how Diana and Alyssa founded Nomi, named after one of the victims they actually met. I hear details about their approach, their strategies, and their products. The beautiful bags on display on the table that read, “Buy her bag. Not her body.” There are also cool iPad covers, hand purses, and wallets. Quality items. All made by women who are no longer being trafficked. Women who are free.
As I walk back to Penn Station to catch my train home, I ask myself why this issue is so important to me? Why this cause? When there are so many injustices going on in the world. Why this?
I can only say that I’ve known for a few years. The defining moment for me happened while listening to Bill Hybels speak at a leadership conference in Manhattan. He asked a very poignant question:
“What wrecks you?”
Not just bothers you. Or keeps you up some nights. Or gets under your skin every so often. But what is it, among all the causes out there, that just wrecks you?
Maybe it’s because I’m a mom of four girls.
Maybe it’s because I’m a woman.
Maybe, as I think about my own upbringing and how much safety and love and protection I was surrounded by, I feel a little guilty.
Maybe, it’s the man I married who loves me so completely, I can’t imagine the horrors these girls and women are facing in comparison.
Maybe it’s none of the above. And this is just what WRECKS me. And what I’m supposed to fight. What I was made for.
As I ride the train back, it happens again.
“Excuse me, but did you just say you met ‘Tyler Perry?'” If being nosy were a crime, I’d be doing time for eva! But I really like Tyler Perry.
The friendly African-American couple behind me laughs, and the young male answers in details I didn’t even ask for. Yet. “Sure. I saw him at Oheka Castle. I work there. Lots of celebrities show up there all the time. For weddings, especially. One of the Jonas brothers got married there.”
“Wow! That’s really cool. I love Oheka Castle. It’s beautiful. Magical. I bet a lot of people don’t know that New York has it’s own real live castle?” I am into this conversation.
“Yup. And talk about romantic. A lot of couples come for just dinner or cocktails. What girl wouldn’t want to be taken to a castle and be treated like a princess?”
“You’re so right. Nothing like when your man treats you like a princess.” I know this full well. “You two look so young. Are you studying? Tell me about your dreams? If there were no limits, what would you do with your life?” Yeah, that’s the teacher/parent in me coming out. Plus I just love to hear young folks think and respond to life questions.
It’s two in the morning. I should be sleeping. But I couldn’t sleep until I wrote this story. And I can’t help but think about those girls. The women. Who will not sleep at night. Who will not be escorted lovingly by their husbands to a castle for a dream date. Who will not be free to love and be loved. Tonight.
And the cost of it all. If the cost of a Super Bowl ticket bothers me, the cost of a girl’s innocence on sale WRECKS me. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the characters in one of the novels I am working on are from India. Kolkata, India.
When I asked Alyssa, one of the Co-founders, to explain how they came up with the name of their Business, she said, “Nomi. Know Me. Know My Story. And Know My success!”
My plan is simple. I plan to write. And tell their stories.