The Grace of Paula Deen
There standing in the kitchen with four burners going, is a silver haired lady, her hair is pulled back in a pony-tail and she’s cooking up a storm. She has on a t-shirt, leggings and her feet are bare. She is preparing a breakfast for all of us vultures, we are salivating from the mouth just to get a small taste. By the expressions on her face you can tell this weekend, surrounded by family and friends, is just what she needed. Paula starts to head down the hall and hollers, “girls it’s time to go upstairs”. Now this is something we had waited to hear all weekend. Paula had told us when we first arrived,” Girls before y’all leave, let’s make sure we visit my closet so y’all can pick out some new outfits”. After this statement this was all we could think about.
Amy yells, “I’m on my way, so everybody get out of my way”, meaning Amy was getting first dibs. Amy grabs a couple of sacks to fill with her loot. Her eyes were the size of UFO’s – almost like she had seen Santa Claus for the first time. She made a beeline down the hall and up the stairs to the closet. Mama and I just sort of took our time, seeing that we were full as a tick on a blood hound. I could hear Amy in the background, stuffing her sack with goodies, saying, “Oh, Paula I just love that! Thank you so much”. I thought I had better pick up my step before she got all the good stuff. I walk in the closet and Amy peers up from her glasses as I walked into the holy land, which is Paula’s closet, and yells “this is my sack of clothes and you need to get your own”. I said,” I got my sack; so get back Jack”. After a minute or two Paula blows a whistle, as to say slow down sisters, “whatever doesn’t fit you girls or anything that doesn’t seem to work for you let’s make a pile for me to take to Goodwill”. Paula continued, “I can remember how I used to feel when I worked years ago and I never had anything nice to wear. It made me feel awful”. I want to donate nice things for women to wear so that they can feel confident when they go to work”. Amy and I slowed down a little so that we could take a minute to go back through our loot and take out some of the pieces that we had already gathered. We didn’t need all this stuff and Paula reminded us that it was more important for us to give than receive.
Amy took a sip of her Diet Coke and said “Paula you know what”? No little Itch, Paula’s pet name for Amy, What? Tears started to well up in both of our eyes, I knew what Amy was about to say. “Paula we can’t imagine all that you are going through at this time, it’s very difficult for us to even try to put ourselves in your shoes”. Our hearts absolutely broke in two just trying to imagine how you must feel”. I spoke up trying to hold it together, “it’s really not about the clothes that you so graciously give to us. It’s the love that you have put in to it. You know that it makes us feel special to wear nice things and it gives us confidence to stand tall. When you gave us that one shirt that has the embroidery on the lapel, the pleats that form to the curves of our body, you know it makes a fat girl feel pretty and skinny”. We all burst out laughing, trying to break the stiffness in the air. I continued,” we know that it comes from a special place in your heart, as it has ever since you and mama carried babies together”. Amy walked over to Paula and began to say “Paula, I just wish people knew you like we do, I wish they had the pleasure to grow up with you and witness just how down to earth you are”. I spoke up and said, “you know Amy – people do have that pleasure. They get it every time they turn on the TV. When they watch her on TV – whoever they saw on TV, the women that they saw is the same women standing in this closet with us. What you see is definitely what you get”. Paula removed her glasses to wipe a tear from her face. She never said a word, and we could tell how much all this drama had hurt her heart. Amy cleared her throat and said, “Paula you will always be a winner in our eyes and millions of others. Amy continued, have you seen all the positive feedback from the Facebook pages “We support Paula Deen”, We are for Paula Deen, and plenty more”? Hell Paula, you have more pages and likes than some of the most famous stars! Paula chuckled, “yes Amy – I have seen them, and it makes my heart so full to just read these peoples comments”. I am truly blessed to have such faithful fans.” We started to gather up our sacks of clothes and put our arms around her and kissed her on her check. It went unspoken but there was just so much love and compassion felt inside that cedar closet. We thanked her for all her kindness and for teaching the sisters what it felt like to give and receive with grace. “Our lady, Paula Deen, is simply Pure Grace”! The entire weekend was such a tremendous blessing for all of us; we hated to leave. We had a great time and we took more than clothes and good groceries away from that house. We took knowledge of giving and receiving; knowing what it’s like to be a strong women and a hard worker – and most importantly-the gift of love and never forgetting to thank the Lord for all that we have received.
Saying our goodbyes with hugs and kisses, we heard the car horn blowing, it sounded like a flock of geese flying overhead; a signal that we to needed to hurry our butts up and get on the road. The iron gates eased opened and right there stuck in the Savannah marsh was a glowing Pepto-Bismol pink sign that said, “Hang In There Paula, Love Ya!”. The hair on our arms rose so high you could have twisted them up in a ponytail. Without hesitation we jumped out of the car and ran our chubby selves over to this sign which gave us a glimpse of hope, and prepared for us a Kodak moment. Once again the geese began to holler telling us to hurry up and let’s fly west. Amy threw her hand in the air, pointing her index finger gesturing just one minute. We knew it was time to hit the highway, but we just needed a little time to savor the moment. After a minute or two passed Amy said, “You know what – we should write a blog on all the good that Paula has done and continues to do”. So with the wagon wheels turning we started reminiscing on all the good that Paula Deen has done, for not only the sisters, but for thousands of others.
Mama spoke up in her usual southern drawl, “Girls – do y’all remember when Paula helped that young man that worked for her?” Amy said, “Not really Mama but I am sure you are going to tell us”. “Ok you little heathen”, mama said. I remember like it was yesterday, Paula told me that a young boy that used to work for her had passed away. I said, “Oh, Lord Paula, I know how much you cared about him.” She had found out that no one had claimed his body. Paula said, “Well I claim his body”. Without hesitation Paula picked up the phone and called the funeral home to make arrangements for this man. All the people from the restaurant gathered at one of the bridges looking out over the Savannah River. It was such an amazing sight. The old oak trees with the Spanish moss hung perfectly across the bridge and mama recalls it being one of the finest funerals anyone could have ever attended. Amy and I both looked at each other with crocodile tears and said, “This doesn’t surprise us one bit”.
Amy leaned over to me and said in a shallow voice, “I wonder if these people involved in this mess have given any thought into how many people this will affect?” I said “I doubt it”. Amy said, “They remind me of a water faucet”. I looked at Amy with a confused look on my face and said, “What do you mean by a water faucet”? She said, “Just sit on back and I will tell you what that means”. I said, “Ok, I’m listening”. She continued, “Saying I just wonder when these folks set out to destroy the most selfless women in the USA did they realize that they were going to affect all the people with families, little children that worked for Paula Deen enterprises? We know that Paula is one of the strongest women to have ever taken a breath, and in time she will bounce back higher than a pogo stick from all this mess. I spoke up and said, “What does that have to do with a water faucet? Amy said, “Well you know what it’s like when you have one of those rusty old faucets that drip and drip and trickle down the drain? That’s what this situation has done a “trickle effect”. I said, “I get it.” I said “I wonder what will happen to the non-profit organizations that Paula and Michael give to if they are unable to contribute. Mama said, “I know that out of all the things that have happened this will hurt Paula the most”. Do y’all remember that hot summer when the Safe Shelter’s air-conditioning had gone out and Paula put in a brand new unit so that every one of those women and children would be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Amy and I both admitted we forgot about that. Then mama continued, “That’s not all I remember. What about all the fundraising events, like the golf tournaments and parties she held in her home for the Bethesda Home for Boys?” Mama was bouncing around in her seat like a little kid and smiling from ear to ear just talking about all this goodness. Amy and I were foaming from the mouth just to get a word in, but mama wasn’t missing a beat on filling our eardrums. She continued, “Remember last Christmas when we went to several inner-city schools with Paula and took Christmas presents and presented the awards for the winners of the Christmas card drawings. I said, “That was the highlight of our holiday – especially the one little girl that was so excited to see Paula that she fainted. She had also won the contest for the best Christmas card drawing?” I recall her saying with tears in her eyes “This is a true blessing for me this Christmas”. We all were crying just seeing how this moment with Paula had made her holiday. What about all the other countless acts of kindness that Paula has done for others. Before we could say a word, mama continued, “And what about all those Christmas presents that she buy’s for those children every Christmas. It ain’t like Paula hires somebody to go out and shop for her. She does all that shopping herself and hell she even wraps all those gifts. And Lord knows don’t forget all those blood drives. She host. She has to donate all that blood, I would have fainted right on the spot if I had to give all that blood, girls you know how mama is anemic. Amy and I were laughing hysterically and throwing spit balls in mama’s hair as if we were ten years old. Mama kept running her trap, and we were loving every minute of it. “Girls we mustn’t forget all that Paula has done for us. I just can’t tell you how excited I was when I heard the Beep, Beep, Beep and looked out of my window and saw a UPS truck backing up to my door. I thought I had won something. To my surprise it was filled with a recliner, Paula’s latest cookware, boxes of clothes and this happened on more than one occasion”. She finally looked over at us and said, “I am worn out, now you know that’s not all Paula has done, but mama is tired and just can’t say another word”. Amy and I both thought hell had frozen over, because we had never heard those words uttered out of her mouth.
No one needs, wants or has to be convinced of Paula’s generosity. The sisters just wanted to take this opportunity to do something that the media as well as the social networks have failed to do. As most of us humans do, we believe what we read and see. Somehow in our twisted minds we like to feel the failures of others. Somehow it makes us feel a little more superior. Paula has performed many acts of kindness that have gone on without a soul knowing or sharing. The reason being is that she did these things out of pure love not for the glory, the publicity, profile raising or the recognition. But the sister’s recognize her generosity and felt the need to share them with you. Before Paula’s rags to riches life, she barely had two nickels to rub together. She was working herself to the bone and barely making ends meet, but still found a way to help out the less fortunate; if it was a meal, a piece of clothing, her hard work or anything that could make someone’s life a little richer. Even if it meant she had to do without she would just do it. It’s how she was raised and she was raised with Love. Her heart has always done things out of sheer love – not ever expecting anything in return. Nothing! She is what she is. She gives out of love because that’s the way her mama and daddy raised her, it’s how she raised her children, her grandchildren and helped raise the sisters. Amen