I was walking through downtown Columbus with my mom and grandma after we went to an Irish River dancing show at the State Theater. As we stood waiting to cross the street on the corner of High and State, my grandma looked up pensively and said to the blonde haired child version of myself, “I was standing here when I found out that President Kennedy was shot”. Though I was really young at the time, I couldn’t help but feel the weight on my grandma’s heart. It was as if it had just happened yesterday. As I grew up, I would always pass that intersection and remember the weight of that moment, sure I didn’t live it but seeing the grit in my grandma’s emotions changed the way I saw things. I always wondered if I’d have a moment like that. Where regardless of how much time had passed, a moment in my life would forever be frozen in the movement of time.
I remember the exact moment when I first heard about sex trafficking, as if it were today.
I was sitting in the front room of my small town coffee shop that was in the backyard of my childhood home. Cozied up in a corner table across from bearded man with the nickname Busy Bee whom I loved. As we sat there sipping our Highlander Grog coffee giggling like people in love do, I asked him what he was passionate about. It was there, as I looked into the loveable brown eyes of the man called Busy Bee at our dimly lit corner table that my heart broke for this horror known as sex trafficking. It was a night that will forever be frozen in time.
As life does, time passed and things changed. The man with loveable brown eyes known as Busy Bee abruptly passed away, shattering my world. The coffee shop where I first fell in love changed owners. I graduated high school and moved nearly a thousand miles away from home, but no matter how much time passed or how far away I traveled that moment in the coffee shop stood with me.
Fast forward five years and I was sitting in the house of my former youth pastor as I told her after all these years I just couldn’t shake this feeling that I was supposed to do something. No matter where I went or what I did I can’t get it out of my head or heart, I had to help in some way. As I told her my heart I couldn’t help but see tears welling up in her eyes as she smirked to herself. Annoyed I said, “what’s your deal right now?” It was there she began to tell me the story of one of my dear friends, Katie. Katie had been a friend of mine in high school and one of the kindest people I had ever met. I hadn’t seen her or really heard much about her since graduation. My youth pastor and I sat there as I heard one of the most earth shattering tales I’ve ever heard, my dear friend Katie had spent years being trafficked. It was one of those things where you sit mouth open and wide-eyed in utter shock. The shock soon turned into tears and suddenly the statistics and numbers I had known for so long transformed into millions of Katie’s staring back at me.
That morning with my former youth pastor was followed with a meeting with one of my mentors at her house. However, as soon as I pulled into her driveway, she came running out the front door and told me we were going out for coffee. How could I keep anything down with news I just heard? I chose to appease to her request, due to the five minutes she spent telling me about this new coffee shop. As we drove there was a part of me that thought, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if it happened to be the same coffee shop where I was when I first heard about sex trafficking from the boy I loved so many years ago?” I quickly brushed that thought away. I looked up as we pulled into the parking lot and laughed because we indeed were at that coffee shop that held such a special place in my heart.
Laughing to myself, I absentmindedly followed my mentor into the once very familiar place.
Of all the places we could go she chose the one place that for me, will always a place of profound awareness and forever frozen in time.
As soon as we opened the door into the quaint little coffee shop, memories came flooding back. I walked up to the counter and ordered my usual cup of Highlander Grog coffee and followed my mentor to none other than the tiny table sitting in the corner where years prior I had sat with “Busy Bee.” The whole situation felt surreal, and I started to cry. As my mentor sat there trying to console me, and probably understand what the heck was going on, I found myself distracted by the shoes of a lady in line.
(Now before I say anything else I need to share the precursor that I have never been one to care about shoes. I have always worn what I liked and what was most comfortable.)
I sat there nervously fidgeting with the sleeve on my coffee cup, trying to hold back tears and process everything from that day. I was unusually captivated by beautiful, mint blue high heels. As they walked toward me I looked up and locked eyes with their owner — Katie.
Any other day it would have made sense to see her. Any other day, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. After all, we were in our hometown. But to see her on the same day I found out about her story, in the exact same place where I was when I first heard about sex trafficking? Things like that don’t simply happen by chance.
As soon as my eyes met Katie’s I ran to hug her. We looked at each other and started to cry. My youth pastor called her that morning to ask if it was okay if she finally told me Katie’s story of victory and restoration. We stood in the middle of the busy coffee shop hugging and crying. We didn’t say much, but there was so much said. That is a moment that changed it all for me. It turned a statistic into a living breathing person who was capable of feeling, seeing, and overcoming. That day, and the moments that lead up to that day over the years is what has broken my heart for this cause beyond repair.
I will do all that is in my power, for as long as I can to help give back hope and a voice to people like my friend Katie in the mint blue shoes.
That story, though lengthy, was one that changed my life and has challenged and inspired me to create The Mint Bee. Though the name is cute and trendy, there is this story of process, struggle, and restoration in it I think has the ability to speak for itself. I believe by explaining the name behind this grass-roots initiate, it will remind my audiences that the statistics of human trafficking are not merely statistics.
No, they are living, breathing human beings who are capable of feeling love, hurt, pain, grace, forgiveness, and a multitude of other feelings like my friend Katie.
Sex trafficking isn’t merely a third world narrative. It can happen in your own backyard to someone you know.
Katie’s story compelled me to do something.
The Mint Bee is a result of using what I have where I am. It’s the collaboration of my love of art and my love of people. I am going to create art and a portion of the proceeds will go to help fund local anti-sex trafficking organizations. What if, by purchasing a print, you could provide a former-trafficking victim with a bed in a safe home? What if a stamp could provide a hot meal? What if up-cycled book pages could provide holistic counseling?
That’s our story, and we’re inviting you to be apart of it.
Welcome to The Mint Bee.