By Renee Kurz
The Ambassadors of Compassion Gala held on May 3rd in Manhattan was an event very different from many typical festivities of Heart’s Homes. The fourth floor of the National Bohemian Hall is a grand ballroom with ornate chandeliers and a frescoed ceiling. The guests were greeted in the welcoming foyer, their coats hung up, and champagne awaiting them as they exited the elevator and ushered to the cocktail. The tables were beautifully prepared, dressed in turquoise and adorned with candles, flowers, and the testimonials of American volunteers. Everything was perfectly in its place — china, silver, glass — staying true to Heart’s Home’s emphasis on love in the details, in accordance to those whom you are serving.
However, though the outward appearance of the evening was strikingly different than other more simple Heart’s Home events, say in Bangkok or India… what was not different at all was the welcoming of friendships and the love with which they were received. With camera in hand, I was struck to not only capture the beauty of the décor, but more importantly the smiles, and embraces, and the laughter between our friends. The room was full of the joy of seeing old friends and coming to know new, which the piano accompaniment of Bach performed by Evan Shinners was so fitting. Our guests then sat in wonder as they listened to the touching story of the development of the Broadway Housing Community and acclaimed with honor the three individuals awarded the Compassion Award; who in their personhood are witnesses to the dignifying and restorative effects of being offered a home surrounded by beauty.
Much of the evening followed the theme of building homes… both the tangible and the transcendent. How beautiful it was to see with what generosity our guests joined Heart’s Homes efforts to build a new home, which in turn is for them: a guest house at the ICCC. And then to be touched by the more essential need of building homes in the hearts for friendship and compassion… a need which Katie Kustusch shared from her experience in Bangkok and her reason for saying ‘yes’ to a second mission in El Salvador. Each bidding hand during the auction knew for what intention they were raising the bid… not only to ensure that they left the ballroom wearing the gorgeous amethyst and pearl necklace or beholding the fine bottle of pleasurable wine; no, they knew that behind each winning bid they were ensuring the fecundity of Heart’s Home and the formation of more Ambassadors of Compassion.