Without a thought, she split her gourmet NYC cookie down the middle and put one half in my hands. Our conversation continued unabated. Before I knew it, we had moved on to cherries and then blueberries, all produced from her little carry-on bag. Her sharing was second nature. I could tell she had long since stopped questioning whether or not she would have enough for herself before giving—and I knew that applied to more than just travel snacks. That is one thing I knew about Janice Perlman in an instant, and it all came from her actions. We know people best by their actions.
When I met Janice (just a few hours before I ate all her food), we were preparing to share an exit row on an airplane leaving New York. I was already comfortably situated by the window, talking on my phone. It was the end of four long days on the East Coast and I was ready to unwind in isolation.
Then it happened—the example scenario I’ve used in many of my conversations about Red Shoes—a sweet little lady walked up to my row and placed a few belongings on the seat next to me before attempting to hoist her bag up into the overhead bin. She didn’t get it more than a foot off the ground. I put my call on hold and stowed her bag for her. And then I went back to my window and my phone call.
For the majority of the flight, I kept to myself. While I was listening to music and working on my computer, she was stretching out, shoes off, across both her seat and the one between us. Finally, a few hours into our travel, and a few hours into her patiently smiling, we started talking.
That’s when she gave me the cookie. Our conversation was engaged and extremely pleasant. Her life was fascinating and her spirit was bright. She had spent years and years as founder of a non-profit group, Mega-Cities, taking ideas and pushing them into real-world application for the benefit of the world’s most populous urban centers.
But of all the amazing topics we covered, and stories we shared, the words that hit me the hardest were the ones she said about me. In all her unassuming candor, she said: “I knew you the moment you put my bag up.”
People know us best by our actions.
Janice Perlman is a Red Shoes individual, easily recognized by her actions. She was not afraid to let me know her through her actions. I hope we can all have that same fearlessness and willingness to act.
Take action. Put on your red shoes and stand out today.