Much anticipation centered on this day. I was scheduled to read and sign copies of my children’s chapter book, Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund, at a charity event for Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach, an organization located in Southampton that offers shelter, a good meal and guidance to those going through difficult times.
The start time was 2 p.m. with me scheduled as first presenter. My husband, Gregg, and I left our Miller Place home at noon to counter the traffic going out to the Hamptons on weekends. Miraculously, we arrived in an hour, leaving plenty of time to tour the town before the charity event. We passed pretty shops decorated brightly for the summer onslaught.
Thirst was my number one priority so my attention went to the Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe. Inside, we were greeted by a delectable display of assorted cheeses—perfect for this cheese lover. I made note to stop back after my reading.
I treat my readings as performances, so no food goes beyond my lips for at least three hours prior to a show, but liquids, coffee and water are quite something else. In back, the shop has a coffee counter and a refrigerator brimming with juices, teas, sodas and bingo-water.
Sated with coffee and water, we started up quaint Main Street when I noticed a woman bending forward as she was window-shopping. There was something about her pulled back hair—famously difficult to manage—that caught my attention. Taking a closer look, I stepped to her side and realized my hunch was right—it was none other than Hoda Kotb. I’m a big fan of the third hour of the Today show, “Live with Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.”
Hoda projects a friendly, girlfriend sort of demeanor on the show. I asked, “Hoda?” That familiar head popped up from her window-shopping. I blurted out, “Oh, I just want to tell you that I love your work.” Then I backed away adding, “I don’t want to bother you.” She stopped me, smiled and said, “That’s OK.” I went on, “I’m thrilled to meet you. I’m in Southampton to do a reading of my book at a charity event at the Southampton Cultural Center.” Her eyes grew larger as she appeared interested. I continued, “You can come if you want, but of course, you must be busy. You’re on your day off so I’ll go.” She stopped me with, “No. Do you have a camera?” My husband and I looked at each other in disappointment. We left the camera back at the car never imagining this chance meeting. Hoda suggested, “How about your cell phone?” She turned to Gregg and said, “Take a picture of us.” Gregg fumbled the phone out of his pocket, stared at it as if not knowing how to get at the camera. Hoda offered, “Want me to see it?” Gregg, who is a tech genius, pressed some buttons and got the camera feature. In the moment, he must have been just a bit flustered. Gregg pointed the camera at Hoda and me. She grabbed me around the waist like two old friends and we smiled as Gregg snapped away. I thanked her profusely for being so accommodating and nice. Of course, as we took our pictures a crowd started forming around us. Others recognized her. I whispered, “I’m sorry.” She didn’t seem to mind. We left Hoda to deflect the crowd.
Sometimes when you do something nice, nice things come to you. Gregg and I headed to the Southampton Cultural Center where I did my dramatic reading of excerpts from my book in the name of Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach. The event achieved what it set out to do. It got the word out about this worthy organization and some donations were collected. Everyone connected with this event was nice, from the coordinator, Sarah Moulton Faux, to the performers, to the dedicated volunteers for this organization.
I learned a lot that day. I didn’t know there was a population of homeless in a place like Southampton. One only thinks of the celebrities that frequent the East End during the summer. We never think about those who remain there during the winter left outside to fight frigid rain and blizzards. This outreach offers food, shelter, therapy and workshops to help less fortunate folks find their way. The counseling and job search programs help people rebuild their lives so that they may experience a sense of accomplishment and worthiness where there was hopelessness before.
I encourage you to take a good look around while visiting the beautiful town of Southampton. You may be lucky enough to bump into someone as nice as Hoda Kotb or maybe even take part in a community service helping others less fortunate than you, like the nice volunteers and workers at Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach.
Barbara Anne Kirshner is a regular contributor to DansPapers.com and the author of Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund.