Planting the Marigold Seed: How it Got Started

There was once a girl by the name of Agnes who lived in Skopje. She was a tiny and determined character. I can only try to imagine her in her youth from the eminent photographs of her in old age; though weathered by life and wrinkled, her round face and caring eyes hint at an image of her in her youth. From a young age, this tiny girl felt a desire to help those in need. India was always on her mind. She felt a tight squeeze in her heart at the thought of it and an overwhelming sense of love and longing to be with its people. One day she went to see her priest. I imagine her looking up at him with big eyes and a spirited countenance as she asked, “how do I know what God’s calling on my life is?” The priest’s answer was simple. “Joy,” he said, “you will know God’s calling on your life because of the immense amount of joy you will feel in your heart whenever you think of it.” Later in life, Agnes would go on to impact millions of people, and is remembered by most as Mother Teresa. 

I closed the book and lay silently staring up at the ceiling in Hotel Heaven. It was day four of a fever running over 103 degrees and I was wondering if I might die here at this hotel in Kolkata. I suppose that’s a bit dramatic, but on top of that I was tired of the depressing view out my window. Directly outside was another building covered in dirt, my window was caged, and there was a dirty toilet brush hanging out of the neighbor’s window. I thought I was in jail  (oops, I’m being dramatic again). However, what I had just read in Mother Teresa’s biography shifted my thoughts from my current situation to a more productive topic: calling.

It was summer and I had just finished my sophomore year of college. I was halfway in and the tools my classes had been equipping me with were building and I was starting to feel excited about going out into the world. My dad always told me that I could be anything I set my mind to and, honestly, I’ve always believed him. It is an exciting place to be, to have no commitments while all the possibilities of the world are just floating out there for you to reach out and grab hold of. I’m sure you can tell by now that I am a bit of an idealist, but it keeps me shooting for the moon. The future has always been a happy place for my thoughts and while I lay there in that bed butterflies joined me and I was distracted for a little while.

It was a week later when I was in a small village outside of Chennai in Tamil Nadu that something pretty brilliant happened. But first some background… I’ve always been interested in fashion and design. I had had a business in high school selling jewelry and designing and sewing custom gowns for events like cotillions, proms, and weddings. I had abandoned pursuing my dream of my own small business for a while and hadn’t talked much about since I got to college. But for some reason it was back on my mind. From the very start of my trip to India I was again thinking about how I could potentially pursue a small business in the future that involved getting to be creative. It seemed completely irrelevant to the fact that I was in India but I was talking about it again for the first time. And because I was just getting to know people on my trip the inevitable question, “What do you want to do with your life?” came up a lot and so there you have it, I was talking about it again.

While in the village, a woman who started an orphanage there approached me. “I noticed the way you wear your scarf, it’s different from the others,” she told me. “Your choice in salwars is unique and beautiful, you have taste.” “Thank you,” I replied. Then she went on to say, “You know, the women in this village really need work. Some of the others told me about your business in high school, so you have experience. I think that you should start a business here to employ them.” And then she said, “I think you should and I know you can.” I don’t know how to express how empowering those words were coming from the most regal looking southern Indian woman wrapped in a rich purple sari with brocade embroidery. I believed her. What followed was a physical reaction that I had never experienced. My heart leaped up into my throat until I thought I might choke. It was joy. Inexplicable and unequivocal joy. And that was how I knew.

What Mother Teresa's priest told her about joy as an indicator of calling was true and as easy as a litmus test. I experienced this joy when a point in time and space was revealed to me where my talent, passion, and a world need intersected. So now I’m chasing it. I don’t know what is next in store, but I can already see that the bud of Marigold & Co. is starting to bloom. It’s a one-step-at-a-time and learn-as-I-go kind of thing. I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know that today it feels right. Each step of the way there have been people who have helped me where I struggle and glow with inspiration when I’m discouraged. Mother Teresa will always have a special place in my heart as her example has been a light to me throughout this process.  Millions of people have been impacted because she was tuned into inner joy. I believe that if we too listen to the joy inside ourselves we will be able to contribute a drop in the ocean of the beautifully immense task of bringing heaven to earth. 

Mary Elizabeth Heard