It is an overwhelming thing to be told you've changed someone's life. It is even more overwhelming to have someone explain to you in tears how you've inspired them to pay that feeling forward.
I still remember the first time she came in. Let's call her "J". She came in and perused the store like many women do, touching different garments, engaging in a little small talk. Her questions were generalized, and as we answered them with the unexpected, her eyes widened. "Wait, everything comes in every size?"
"Yes," I answered, with a smart alec follow up, "you're lucky, when we started we only designed for plus sized women. Now, we carry your size too!" A huge smile came across her face. She went into the fitting room to try some things on, and we made suggestions about different silohuettes she should try.
When she made her selections, she came out of the fitting room, walked up to me with the most compelling look, and said, "Tell me your story. I want to know more about how you came up with the styling, your mission, all of it!" As I spoke, she hung on to every word. She was drinking it all in.
Now, this is something that actually happens frequently. It is more often my plus size customers that are in wonder and awe of the variety of shapes and sizes. "J", surprised me by her reaction because she was a standard size. She had the world of fashion right at her fingertips, and I couldn't imagine that fit was ever an issue for her.
"J" became a great customer and like so many of our customers, sang our praises to lots of other women. One day recently, she came in with items that she bought that weren't going to work with the dress code at her new job. The purchase was well outside of our return policy. I told her that I would make a one time exception because she was such a great customer and would issue her a credit for the items. I explained to her that the reason for our return policy was simply because I won't resell clothing, worn or not, that has been exposed to the basic home allergens for a significant period of time. I just feel someone buying something "new", should get it "new". "J" immediately welled up. She asked me not to give her the credit, just to give the clothing to someone deserving. I told her that the items actually would be donated to a woman's charity, as we do with any items that we don't sell. Then, shepulled me aside and told me this incredible story.
Growing up, her father liked beautiful expensive things, and he bought them for himself. Whatever he desired, he purchased, often leaving "J' and her family to go without. She told me that she would go to school without a backpack or a coat, and she grew up feeling unworthy of having nice things. Financially now, she has the means to have nice things. She told me it wasn't until she came into my store, that she ever really felt beautiful and worthy. She went on to tell me that something as simple as coming into a store to buy a couple of items changed her life. That we, changed her life. We hugged and cried together. I issued her a credit, and she went on her way.
A little while later, she came back into the store. With tears in her eyes, she handed me her credit and asked me for a favor. She wanted to pay forward the gift of being made to feel worthy. She wanted me to find someone who really needed to feel valuable. She asked me to give that woman her store credit so she could have the full experience. I couldn't believe my ears. I was so moved, that I just ran around the counter to hug her. In my excitement I suggested that she be the one to present it to the woman and "J" just quietly shook her head no. She said, "She doesn't need to know who it's from, just share my story."
And so I did.
I am seriously the luckiest woman on earth because I get to experience moments like this on a regular basis.