Nicole was in make-up. Filming wasn’t due to begin for another four to five hours, due to the fact one of the lights had blown and the director was in a foul mood.
The phone rang. Nicole’s assistant informed her who was calling, and Nicole said she’d take the call.
“Nicole?” asked the voice.
“Angelina?” asked Nicole.
“Listen, I know you’re on set, but I want you to check out an address that’s close by. I think you should go today, if possible,” said the fellow actor.
Nicole, her assistant and two crew members flagged down a taxi, and headed east, towards the river. It was a muggy, overcast day. Even in the gray, Thailand was busy: streets crowded with vendors, scraggly dogs and barefoot children. The car edged along, occassionally honking, the driver yelling out his window for someone to move.
When they reached the warehouse, a stranger approached. He could speak Thai and English. He had been patiently awaiting Nicole’s arrival. Sensing her apprehension, he informed her they would be safe, but what they would see might be upsetting. They needed to go in now, before the manager returned.
Inside, it was hot and crowded. Women of all ages, some young girls, were hunched over small machines, steam rising. Dusty, dirty children were playing
at their feet; some had scraps of cloth, or dishpans, and they were quietly playing games while the women worked away. The windows were filthy, and what little light could seep in was choked by coughing and swirling steam.
“How long will they be here?” Nicole asked the stranger.
“All their lives, miss,” said the man. “But as for today, they come in at 5:30 in the morning. Then they walk home at night.”
The four heard about the long hours, the little pay (some women received only fifty cents a day); the long walks in the dark, alone, while carrying sleeping children on an empty stomach, or, if they were lucky, a bowl of rice. And the oppression of slavery, day after day, that lead to depression, sickness and, ultimately, a lonely death.
Children in other countries would play with their Happy Meal toys, or wear a
two piece outfit from Wal-Mart. They would never know that these items were
mass-produced at the expense of human lives.
“It is time to go, miss…”
Nicole took one last look around. None of the women raised their heads to look at the newcomers. None of the children were smiling. She felt completely sick and overwhelmed.
It was three months later, in a New York townhome, where the group of women met. Angelina was there with Nicole, Julianne, Susan and Scarlet. They talked about what they had experienced in various parts of the world, and Susan
was angry. She was angry at what little was being done. She was angry
with herself and with others, even others who, like herself, had been speaking out on behalf of human rights for year after year. An idea was born out of sheer frustration and hope.
The idea was to take acting jobs that would pay ridiculous sums of money. And the women would pool their money. And they would take that money and invest it in people. Their plan was to turn around the thinking of the ultra-elite: why buy a $565,000 Porsche when you could save a village of children in the Sudan?
Why waste $8 million on a haute couture dress and diamonds, when a school could be built in Iraq? Or Alabama, for that matter…
Before long, this small idea had grown into a well-spring of compassion. George and Brad and others who were making millions upon millions of dollars were
digging wells and tearing down shacks alongside crews they had hired. Oprah was spear-heading medical facitlites and working with researchers on how to end
diseases that here-to-for had been ignored. Beck was teaching songwriting to
children in South America who had never seen a pencil before. Blind children in Romania were soothed and comforted with music from Jewel and Bono.
It became the norm on Wall Street to hear someone celebrate the turnaround of the percentage of still-births in Croatia. “Great job, Ted, on helping those women in Brazil fight domestic violence!” People formerly afraid of poverty were rising up to do something to end it. People’s hands were getting dirty with
Then they woke up to the fact that every choice we make affects someone on this planet. No us and them. No rich or poor. No less or more. Each face deserved a name; each man, woman and child an essential part of a plan we can never truly understand. Each person a part of a global family.
You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
It just takes one voice to start the choir. One. If you take my hand, I can hear the singing.
PS…Nicole went back to that factory. She bought it with cash. She tore down the site and built a new brick building, complete with restrooms and water fountains, air conditioning and great, big beautiful picture windows. There was a clinic, with a staff, and the women and children could have lunch in the landscaped courtyard, which they had planted themselves. There were herbs, and flowers, and picnic tables.
In the middle of the courtyard was a tree that smelled of honey-suckle year round. The women ran the factory, and Nicole wore their clothes, joyfully, every where she went.