Every journey has its especially sparkling moments, and for my Winter Western States Book Tour, this was it. Elegance and style, generosity and community, connections with old friends and new—a unifying experience for all. The setting—a historic home in the mountain canyons of Santa Barbara; the time—Valentine’s weekend; the opportunity—helping others.
I had the privilege of working with a superb charity in co-creating a fund-raiser/ friend-raiser author tea. This is truly my favorite kind of event because of its synergy—which makes it a win-win-win: for the charity, for the guests, and for the author. In this case, there’s a fourth winner: the community of Santa Barbara, which benefits so directly from the services this charity provides. You could also say this event was a prime example of head and heart working together.
The first heart-element of this story is Santa Barbara itself, a glamorous location that famously dazzles with its mountains-and-ocean scenery, that’s been a second home of sorts all my life. I fell in love with it as a child, when my parents took us there, the first of many visits to life-long family friends. And through the years there have been further adventures: recording a single with Beach Boy Mike Love; recording an album with Charles Lloyd; speaking annually at the Santa Barbara Book Festival; author teas at Café Shell on State Street; a house-trade to celebrate my wedding anniversary. Not surprisingly, about half the storylines of my Milford-Haven Novels take place there, So even if I don’t live there (yet), several of my characters do.
And the first head-element of the story is that a year ago, I approached two super-smart, dynamic women who’ve become good friends to see if we could brainstorm a special event that would benefit the city we love. Marcia Reed is Director of the Chamber of Commerce; Jonatha King is owner of King Communications. It was their suggestion that we work with the Unity Shoppe; it was mine that we create the first Uni-Tea. (Those of you who’ve followed my Tea events know that I always give them a special name: Generosi-Tea, Hospitali-Tea, Connective-Tea. . . .)
What makes Unity Shoppe such a heady brainsmart organization is its innovative structure. We’re all aware that some members of every community struggle to make ends meet—especially in these economically difficult times. Well-meaning organizations of all kinds step in with donations, and though the recipients are of course grateful, they seldom receive what they actually want or need. What Unity does is gather goods—donated, or purchased in wholesale bulk; sort and shelve them; then open the doors of their well-stocked store to families in need. These families now have the opportunity to shop like anyone else. The practicality and dignity of this arrangement is so effective is would make an excellent template for communities everywhere.
And this is where Unity becomes a heart story. To keep the shop doors open for those whose lives are being so positively impacted, Unity’s people raise funds ingeniously, diligently, and creatively. They’ve become experts at creating special events with special appeal. The Uni-Tea was a perfect example, inspiring the local press and attracting a wonderful crowd of supporters. It had every ingredient of a posh afternoon tea with all the trimmings: fabulous delicacies elegantly served with hand-poured teas and coffees, and outfits reminiscent of the golden age of Hollywood, highlighted by prizes for the best hats, of which there were several. The venue itself was a magnet—a spectacular historic home designed to entertain.
When you think about it more deeply, what’s most impressive about Unity are indeed its people, individuals who are living lives of generosity—living from the heart. Barbara Tellefson, CEO, takes an almost impish delight in wearing many other hats behind the scenes. Tom Reed, Executive Director, never misses an opportunity to charm people into a new awareness. So, when is life at its most productive and inspiring? When we’re living in unity of head and heart.