MEETING AUBREE GRAYCE
She walked in and I almost burst into tears. A feeling of humility and utter vulnerability washed over me. Did she know that she was the one being honored by this meeting?
Aubree, in royal blue, with her joyful eyes that shine even as they can’t see, and a smile that went on forever. I walked up to her and leaned in as I took her hand. For half a second, I couldn’t find my voice. I was so aware of everyone watching and I just wanted everything to be small and safe. But Aubree was standing there in all her confidence, so I had no other choice but to speak. “Aubree, I am Heather, I own Grace and Grit and I am so delighted to meet you.” She laughed and said, “Me too.”
I guided her to her chair, helped her feel around so she would know where to sit and, at her mother’s request, I awkwardly took her cane (and in doing so though, ‘Oh my goodness — her security, her life stick, how does she feel as I, a complete stranger, take this from her?!’) and put it to the side. I wasn’t sure where to begin the conversation so I just asked about Christmas and then, like always, the words came out of me as I tried to pour love onto this sweet girl. This young girl who couldn’t see me or the small crowd around her, who couldn’t see how bright her shirt was, or that I was teary eyed, or that every one of us in the room was entranced by her smile and giggle. She was the most interesting being in the room, no one could take their eyes off of her.
I kept thinking, ‘Does she know the gift she is giving me?’ How often do we, as business owners, get to see the difference we make? How often is the difference we make so big that the customer asks to meet us?
Aubree is a 9-year-old young lady who is visually impaired. Her grandmother bought her one of our Grace and Grit Boxes at a store in Weatherford — Jordan Taylor and Company. Aubree fell in love with the accessories and together it was decided she and her grandmother would try to meet me.
The box that grandmother, Cynthia, bought her was our Devotion Box, a box built around the idea that devotion to an idea or a person changes lives and can impact the world. The woman I felt best represented devotion was Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher. It was apparent in my meeting that Aubree’s mother and grandmother were just as devoted to Aubree as Anne was to Helen. Seeing their love and desire for her to have the best life made this meeting so wonderfully fragile, something that my heart will celebrate for the rest of my life.
When I set out to start a business that would hopefully empower girls, I did not realize what all it would require of me. You must understand, I like going small, I like staying safe, working in quiet beside my trusty warm cup of coffee. These things feel make me feel comfortable and peaceful. I really thought I would just stay behind the screen, backstage, peeking through the curtains as I observed girls and their mothers learning from their Grace and Grit experiences.
But on Aubree Day, I started to realize I must get in the fire because Aubree is in the fire every day.
Every day, Aubree has people devoted to her. Aubree knows how devoted they are to her, and she in turn has the spark shown by every child who is truly loved. In turn, Aubree has power, she has a voice and the ability to be devoted to other visually impaired children who may not have as strong a support system.
Here’s what I noticed about Aubree. Aubree isn’t afraid to light it up, say what she is thinking, admit she didn’t have an answer for a question that was asked of her, laugh if a mistake was made. She isn’t afraid because she is devoted and doesn’t mind being vulnerable. I, on the other hand, the adult who is trying to teach girls who to be like Anne Sullivan… like Aubree really, I am very afraid. But Aubree wasn’t afraid and that was a huge lesson to me. Walk the walk, Heather. Let someone take your cane, your security blanket, force yourself into the fire and walk vulnerably through life.
At this point in the meeting I thought I had learned everything that God had sent Aubree to teach me. I got up and the camera man sat down to talk with her.
Their conversation lasted about 10 minutes and only once did I see her be hesitant, not sure to let herself stay vulnerable or not, but she stayed in the fire and she opened her spirit to us when she told the cameraman the Grace and Grit Box was important to her because she could use it to help others so they wouldn’t feel different because she, herself, doesn’t want to be different.
Holy cow. It was at that moment that my heart was torn open. Well, everyone’s heart in the room was torn up, really, and the gravity of what we had created with Grace and Grit came to life. For the first time, I could see it, touch it, salty tears flowing from my eyes made me taste it. We created a product to let girls know it was okay to be vulnerable, to stand for what you believe in. If we are all vulnerable, we are all free to be different. And that if we are all different, then we are all the same.
I haven’t yet fully recovered from this reckoning.
Aubree — whose middle name, if you can believe it, is Grace spelled Grayce, taught a room full of established adults that young ladies are indeed going to hold up half the sky one day, going to impact history, going to teach the rest of us to walk our walk, talk our talk and don’t not to worry about the rest. And in the end, if we are all vulnerable, then we are all free.
Aubree, thanks for your devotion, grace, and grit. But most of all, thanks for your fire! I hope our paths cross again.