Way back in the early 90's I worked at the Clinique counter at Macy's Herald Square. We were considered something of a "showcase" counter and we would get visits from company executives from time to time.
One day a woman walked up to me and said,"Hi I'm Evelyn Lauder, tell me about what you are doing."
Lauder, of course, was at the top of the corporate ladder, Clinique being a subsidiary of Estee Lauder. I can't remember the specifics of our conversation, but the way she interacted with me left a lasting impression.
People who are truly great treat everyone's contribution with respect.
It sounds like a cliche, but it was a lesson that I carried with me through my time at Clinique and into my career in television.
Little did I know, that our lives would intersect decades later.
I would become a breast cancer patient at a facility that was named for Lauder, who also was the key patron of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
I was at a talk at the 92nd Street Y a few weeks ago when Dr. Larry Norton talked about Lauder's relationship with the BCRF.
He said she appreciated the beauty of cancer research, meaning she could see a value beyond the medical. She could appreciate its creativity and elegance.
That creativity and elegance can also be seen at a unique fundraiser for the BCRF.
For the past three years SUITE New York has held a design challenge to raise funds for BCRF. Each year designers are asked to re-imagine a classic modernist chair.
This year's event is called the Pink Jalk Project.
The Jalk is featured in MOMA and was designed by a woman. Maria Sepulveda and Kris Fuchs' showroom features a wide variety of Jalks ranging from the blinged-out to fancifuly simple.
All are being auctioned online right now at charitybuzz.com.
So what does all this mean to a patient like me?
It would be easy to sum up the project as a colorful effort to raise money for a good cause, but after seeing the chairs and meeting many of the designers at a reception last week, the project impressed me as something more profound.
Just like cancer researchers, designers use their imagination to create something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is an interesting failure. But it's gratifying to see these talented innovators using their skills to help save the lives of women like me.
Darrell Carter transformed the Jalk from furniture to sculpture. His work actually made me think of the many survivors and bloggers who want to remind the world that there is nothing easy, pink, or twinkly about cancer.
Stephanie Gotto told me she finished her chair in silver to reflect back at the world, and lined in pink leather to reflect the curves of a woman's body.
These chairs and many more can be bought through the online auction which runs through the end of October.
80% percent of the proceeds of each chair go to the BCRF. There is something for every taste, and you will have a conversation piece that helped save lives.
I also want to thank Kris Fuchs for inviting me to the reception last week. She extended her hospitality to a random chick with breast cancer who contacted her on Facebook.
It was the sort of gracious gesture that reminded me of my encounter with Evelyn.