Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana
It is hard to believe twenty years have passed since the news of Princess Diana’s death. I grew up with Princess Diana from the moment the press found out she was dating Prince Charles. I still remember waking in the wee hours of July 29, 1981 on summer holidays in Sudbury to watch the Royal Wedding and essentially fell in love with everything British and Royal. How incredibly lucky I would be that I was in Ottawa on a school trip when Charles and Diana would make their first trip to Canada in 1983. I waited on a hot and humid June day with a few public school friends and likely a teacher given our young age to just get a glimpse of Princess Diana from her car as it entered the Rideau Hall Gates. It was a dream come true. I followed Princess Diana in the newspapers, magazines and television. I loved her style and elegance but more importantly I was inspired about how she made it her mission to help others, advocate and shed light to causes that were not considered glamorous. Diana had this warmth which was evident in her interactions with others.
In June 1997, my university friend and a fellow Princess Diana fan and I planned a trip to London. The trip was originally planned for around the time of Princess Diana’s death but at some point we decided to moved it up to June. What a different trip it would have been from the one we experienced. I was up north in cottage country when I heard the news of Princess Diana with one fuzzy television channel and a radio. As the days passed, I would watch the coverage from London and once again woke in the wee hours of September 6, 1997 to say goodbye to the People’s Princess.
Since the world lost Princess Diana, I have been lucky to see her dresses twice in Toronto, travel to her resting place Althorp with my mother on her birthday in 2002 and then onto Paris to where she lost her life that fateful day. I hope to travel to London to see the Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace before it closes in early 2018.
In a world that celebrates and worships all things celebrity, it is Princess Diana who continues to inspire me. Princess Diana embodied love, kindness, compassion and inclusion. I aim to embrace these values as I go about my own travels on this earth. I love seeing her boys William and Harry along with Catherine carry on her legacy and continue to champion causes that were important to her while also charting their own course of what is important to them. Diana would be so incredibly proud. As a life-long volunteer, they all inspire me to continue to contribute to my own community and helping others.
“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.” – Princess Diana
Diana – forever remembered and missed. 💗
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I always had a fascination with hurricanes. Many evenings would be spent watching the approaching storms on various news outlets. Waiting for Hurricane Katrina was no different but as we know now that storm was different. The unbelievable destruction and loss was unimaginable to me. I had never been to New Orleans nor did I have any ties to the city but always knew it was a place I wanted to visit. I wondered if that would ever happen after Katrina. Little did I know that my visit would come in the form of a volunteer opportunity a year later.
On a summer afternoon in 2006, an email popped into my inbox about the Junior League of New Orleans looking for volunteers for their ReBuilding Together weekend. Almost a soon as I read it, I forwarded it off to a group of friends. Before long we had seven Junior League of Toronto members signed up to travel to New Orleans on our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to help rebuild. The Junior League of New Orleans made the ask and the call was answered in the form of 600 members from three countries. Truly amazing.
We had no idea what to expect when we arrived in New Orleans but quickly learned the impact of Katrina on a bus tour of the city and it was overwhelming. Street after street had been destroyed. Some yards only had steps left that homeowners once climbed to get into their homes. We saw houses that were no longer habitable, no birds, no bushes, no flowers, dead trees everywhere. The X’s that marked homes searched still remained. Katrina and the flooding were indiscriminate and everyone had a story to tell. I cannot tell you how many times people thanked us for coming to volunteer.
The volunteers were given opportunities of where they might like to help. As a lifelong foodie, I felt a calling to help at Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant located in the Treme area of New Orleans after seeing this short film http://youtu.be/3uVUNpkvAiA. Miss Willie Mae Seaton had been making the best fried chicken in New Orleans for over 50 years and had received a James Beard Award in 2005 for it. Many well known Southern chefs including John Besh and John Currence worked endlessly to get her back up and running. In the sweltering heat, we scraped, sanded and helped paint to get her back into her kitchen cooking her secret recipe where she belonged. I had never been that dusty and dirty in my life but loved every minute of it. I had the amazing opportunity to meet Miss Willie Mae and was touched by her incredibly warm spirit, smile, her stories and that southern charm – “all you pretty, pretty girls”. She shared some of the reasons for her success – be nice to everyone and to always be real. Wise words from a beautiful woman who I was lucky to meet and help. While her great granddaughter Kerry is now at the helm, I was happy to be able to return two years later to see the restaurant completed and got to enjoy the fried chicken and other southern treats. They were worth the wait. Continue reading “Remembering Katrina”