Last December, as part of my birthday celebration, I went to the Philadelphia Public Library to see and hear an interview with Leslie Caron, star of An American in Paris with Gene Kelly (who discovered her), Gigi, and then more dramatic movie roles, as in Fanny, the L-Shaped Room, and ChocolÃ¡t with Juliette Binoche. (In 2007, Caron won an Emmy for her performance as a rape victim on “Law & Order: SVU.” I actually saw that episode and Caron was wonderful!) Caron was in Philadelphia to promote her book: Thank Heaven: A Memoir.
If you are old enough to remember her from Gigi when it first came out in 1958, you may remember the song Thank Heaven for Little Girls, sung by Maurice Chevalier, from which the memoir title is taken. (A copy of an article about Ms, Caron by Liz Smith of The Chicago Tribune can be read by clicking on this link. Quite interesting reading if you are a fan: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/sns).
As fate or luck or coincidence would have it, I sat down next to DaniÃ¨le, who was the person responsible for bringing Leslie Caron to Philadelphia. DaniÃ¨le has been in the U.S. for about 30 years, coming first at age 30 to explore new horizons, and except for a brief return to her native France, has remained here.
At our lunch interview a couple of weeks ago in the French restaurant (of course) Chez Colette in Hotel Sofitel, DaniÃ¨le and I talked about our lives. She recently retired as the Consul Honoraire de France, what I call her “French Connection.” Her job, which was all voluntary, involved helping French citizens who needed assistance when they came to the US. For example, if someone lost his or her French passport when arriving here, DaniÃ¨le would receive a call and provide whatever service was necessary to the traveler. What I found most interesting is that DaniÃ¨le did this for 10 years without any financial compensation, treating it like a regular job for which she felt responsible for those in need.
Last week I posted a list of items from AARP about what activities lead to longevity in our lives and one of them seems to fit here: Find a purpose and pursue it with a passion. The way I know that DaniÃ¨le is still pursuing this area of endeavor with passion is that, even though she is retired from the consulate, she is still working on projects, such as bringing Leslie Caron to Philadelphia. (Ms. Caron was lovely in person and was also the guest of honor at a dinner that night, also planned by DaniÃ¨le.)
DaniÃ¨leâ€™s newest project is to recreate a French tradition of A Week of Taste for the Alliance FranÃ§aise. Chefs are invited to French schools to teach children about cooking from scratch. DaniÃ¨le plans to make this happen in a Philadelphia school for one day. Since I am a â€œfoodie,â€ I told her I would lend a hand. I canâ€™t keep my mind away from the kitchen, especially when healthy food is the topic.Â World Food Day is October 16th, so DaniÃ¨le hopes to have thisproject realized by that day.
Volunteering at something you love gives real meaning to our lives. As we grow older and hopefully have less need to work full time, being a volunteer can be very rewarding. (I find this so at MANNA.) Even if you are working full time, if you can squeeze even two or three hours per week doing something you love that has no monetary reward, you might find your life more JOYful (Here’s my 2010 theme again!) because you are making a difference in other people’s lives, as well as your own.
I enjoyed my lunch with DaniÃ¨le and the interview of Ms. Caron, made more interesting because Daniele was sitting next to me and filled me in with some interesting tidbits about Ms. Caron’s life. At our lunch a couple of weeks ago, DaniÃ¨le gave me a lovely key chain with the Moulin Rouge windmill engraved on it, a gift to everyone at the dinner for Leslie Caron. So now I have my own French Connection, DaniÃ¨le Thomas Easton!
P.S. Since I am posting this in February, I should add that DaniÃ¨leâ€™s volunteerism comes from her heart! â™¥