“Hey, Sam! Want to sit by me?”
“Because you have red hair.”
It was kindergarten, 1986, and Sam (Samantha) and I were the last kids on the bus waiting to get dropped off after school. I was sitting alone and had spotted Sam - also sitting alone - a few seats ahead of me. Sam was cool. As much as a kindergartner can have confidence, Sam had it - and I wanted to be her friend. Finding ourselves sitting alone on the bus seemed like a great way to instantly make a friend! But I hadn’t been prepared for being turned down.
Red hair? I thought. What’s wrong with having red hair?
I spent the rest of the ride home in silence, while my five-year-old mind tried to process what had happened. Cooties I knew about, but...red hair being a problem? I was so confused.
Prejudice, large or small, is something experienced around the world. Sasibai Kimis, owner of the company Earth Heir, is no exception. As a child, Sasibai always felt different. Being of Indian descent, she experienced prejudice in her home country of Malaysia. At the age of twelve, Sasibai was told that even though she got good grades in school, she wouldn’t be getting into the best schools because of her racial background.
Eventually she ended up attending college in the United States where she says she had “the most confidence-building and life-affirming experience” of her life. She graduated and got involved in investment banking in New York. By age thirty, Sasibai was struck with corporate burnout and began seriously thinking about what her legacy in life would be. She questioned whether the meaning of life was to just work hard and grow her bank account, or if there was something more.
Sasibai realized she wanted to do something she really believed in, and she ended up returning to Malaysia to spend time making an impact there. In her interview on the podcast The Immigrant Entrepreneur, she says, “Think about how you’re spending your days and whether you think your days are going to have an impact on the world.” She decided to make an impact on the world by creating her award-winning luxury craftsmanship brand Earth Heir, which is already making a huge difference for local artisans in Malaysia. Sales from just one of their event’s orders provided one woman with eight months’ worth of salary - providing a better house and the ability to pay for university...and this is just one example!
I know we’d all like to make an impact, too. But we can’t all provide economic support for people on the other side of the world, or start luxury brand companies. But, just like Sasibai Kimis, all of us CAN make an impact on the people right in front of us. Wherever we are, we can look around and see who’s there. We can find out what they need, and do what we can to be a blessing.
And, Sam, wherever you are, there’s still a seat next to me on the bus waiting for you! I still have red hair, though, so...just think about it and get back to me. ;)
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