The Mansion on O Street
Many people have asked how I created The Mansion, especially because I started with no money, no business background, no art and/or design background—and still don’t have business cards. It started simply with a childlike openness to say “yes” to the visions God passed through me. You see, I believe that as artists we are essentially channels. Let me explain.
The best thing about any art form is that it provides an outlet to get your thoughts and ideas into the open. But the rewards of art don’t stop with the creative process, for art is an expression of love that has a lasting effect. Being a loving person is not just in the giving and receiving, but in the telling, the creating—and in the freedom to express one’s feelings.
My first job in Washington was as a nanny for seven children. Seeing our nation’s capital through the eyes of these children was wonderful, enlightening and life changing. I have loved every moment of all my various jobs, from working in a girl’s reformatory, to hospital assistant (that’s a nice way to say bedpan cleaner) to dishwasher, mental hospital caretaker, to waitress, short-order cook, to working with severely handicapped children, to secretary. The list goes on and on. Every job has contributed to my ability to balance vision with practical ways to get things done. And they taught me that no matter how glamorous a job sounds, in the end, no one is better than a nanny, fire fighter, dishwasher, street cleaner or garbage collector. We all serve others.
When I had the visions to create The Mansion, I abandoned all outside influences and focused solely on the steady “heart work” of seeking God, one day and one night at a time. And over the past 27 years, regardless what has happened, I always get up after I fall down. Always, I get up. And each night I forgive everyone, everything; each morning I forgive myself. Life is not about those things you have lost along the way, the spare change, pieces of paper with people’s names and numbers, jewelry, scarves, umbrellas, coats, buttons and keys. It’s about the very real friend you meet, just around the corner. And just as important, it’s about letting go of everything you thought you knew. Because nothing stays the same, not words, images, memories, people or places. And there is a reason things happen the way they do. Whatever you might think at the moment, there is a sequence for everything—and it is all worthwhile.
Although I conceived and created this place, The Mansion magic goes well beyond me, and will survive long after me. While I live and work at The Mansion, most people don’t know who I am—though I might valet their car or serve their meal or bus their table after dinner. Why do I still do this? It is the only way to get a true pulse of the business. Plus, The Mansion is not about me; it is about those who seek refuge here.
Most people assume looking at The Mansion that I am rich and that my children will be wealthy. On the level that I value, I am rich and my children Z, Sonny and Hannah will have a rich inheritance, but it won’t be monetary. Our wealth will be in what we give back. This spirit is captured by the lyrics Jim Schneider and I wrote for “Bring on the Music. “Sam Moore and Felix Cavaliere sum it up so perfectly when they sing on our album, “It’s not about the money… it’s all about soul.”
The Mansion’s philosophy is eternal, but it isn’t just mine, nor those who support it. Twenty-seven years ago we incorporated as a “not-for-profit” organization because of this philosophy. The Mansion is proof that business can succeed without “profit” and endure even when dollars do not flow to that imaginary bottom line. I am testament to the fact that one can start without money, achieve a vision and share a wealth that transcends a monetary figure. If we are true to our vision, committed to our path and willing to share ourselves, we all can achieve things beyond what we know.