At this time of year it’s so easy to get overcome by all the immediate things that need to get done and overlook the really important thing that should always be at the forefront of my consciousness, especially tonight, the night before Thanksgiving. In the last two weeks, we’ve decked out our workshop in Christmas regalia and hosted an open house, made lots of products, some of which were a brand new design. We’ve tried to clean up any little thing on our website that made it less than highly functional and inviting. Along with that, we mailed out some orders, did a little custom work and tried to brainstorm social media posts, emails, and a couple of other events to bring people in to the workshop, including Small Business Saturday.
Right now, I’m still just getting started on the Thanksgiving dinner I’ll get to serve to my in-laws and kids tomorrow. Still, I feel I must just take a few moments to talk about some things I’m thankful for at OUTsideIN.
To begin, we are all healthy. Despite the fact that she and her husband had Covid-19, Lisa was able to have a full recovery with no aftereffects. Kayla continues to pursue physical fitness and is trying to eat healthier and drink more water. Her daughter, Makayla, is getting “blues” and “greens” in school. (That’s a positive.) My daughter, Micah, interviewed Kayla a few days ago for a college paper about social enterprise and Kayla told her that the job she had at OUTsideIN had changed her life. That’s a humbling thought for a “Momtepreneur” who concedes every day that she really doesn’t know what she’s doing trying to steer this little ship.
Just before the pandemic, I spoke to the Holy Angels Catholic Church in Dyersburg, Tennessee and they decided to buy us a new commercial sewing machine. That was huge!!!! I still really can’t believe that happened. We love it so much and it has been a game changer. Later on, we started making face masks for our local first responders and a local food processing plant. That sure helped our revenue stream, which had all but dried up.
But maybe the thing I’m most thankful for is the fact that for eight years now, I’ve been helped, coached, mentored, chided, admired, corrected, and loved by Jean McMillan. Just a few weeks ago, Jean asked to be released from her volunteer obligations at OUTsideIN, I’ve now realized how very much I took this amazingly talented woman for granted and I want to go on the record as at least trying to convey in a public way how much I appreciate her and all she has done.
Jean, who was barely an acquaintance at the time, was in the room when I announced my plan to start a social enterprise. Two days later she told me she wanted to be involved and I was stunned speechless. I was pretty sure that she probably didn’t even like me and couldn’t imagine that we could work together to accomplish our mission to empower women. What did I know? Apparently, very little.
Because you see, God was in the midst of our unlikely partnership and as I learned one-by-one the things I didn’t know how to do, Jean would reveal that they were exactly the things she was quite proficient at. She designed our very first logo, brochure and employee manual. She sourced and ordered almost everything we’ve ever purchased, making sure to get the best value for our hard earned dollars. Eventually, Jean crafted a website for us and taught me to use the latest iteration of it. She’s the only person I have allowed myself to vent to, brag to and cry in front of. I know I’ve told her things that have made the hair on the back of her neck stand up but she has always maintained a calm reassurance that everything would work out. Not long ago, we shared a laugh about the time an employee wore short shorts to work and how freaked out I was about that.
Jean has given so much of herself to OUTsideIN and has asked and received nothing in return. She simply seemed pleased to be contributing to an effort that we both realized was “life - changing” (reference Kayla’s earlier remark). In the beginning, Jean had another job and did most of the things I asked her to do at home. Eventually, after we got our bigger workshop she left that job and attempted retirement. I say “attempted” because she then just started coming in to OUTsideIN on a regular basis and doing even more work for us. That’s not exactly retirement. However, the challenges of the last few months along with a few health concerns have caused her to reassess the amount of time she was spending away from Mr. Parker, her husband. (Yes, that’s a different last name. Did I mention Jean is a bit of a feminist?)
Anyway, I can’t help but agree that Jean McMIllan has done way more than any volunteer should ever be asked to do and is certainly entitled to devote her time to other things she enjoys, like cooking, gardening and making beautiful things.
And speaking of beautiful things, I hope with all my heart that she considers a little social enterprise in Troy called OUTsideIN one of the most beautiful things she’s ever been a part of. Because I do.
It makes me sad to think of all the times I should have been more thankful for this sweet woman that God put in my life to help me with my dream to launch a non-profit. I know I could not have done it without her. I would have given up long ago. And I’m a little bit afraid that I won’t be able to do it without her now. I have depended on her so much. But that kind of mindset simply won’t do. My mentor, Jean, has literally spent years empowering me to believe that I had everything I needed to succeed at making a difference with OUTsideIN. Even though I will miss her so much I’m determined that she has not wasted all the encouragement she has poured into me. That would make her so mad and I cannot bear the wrath of that Yankee temper.