Viewpoint: Giving Back in Small, Big Ways

By Barbara Gould
Special to the Palisades News

Every now and then one can hear a singer with a voice so incredible it speaks to your very soul. I was fortunate enough to hear such a voice recently. Esther Orr not only has a powerful voice, but has so much emotion behind the words that it brought tears to my eyes.

She sang “Over the Rainbow” at a women’s luncheon at Chabad. As she began to sing there was a collective gasp as everyone felt the beauty of what they were hearing.

I’ve not only been privileged to hear her voice, but I also have her CDs loaded on my computer. (She’s a well-known movie star that lives in the Palisades.) It’s a good thing they’re not on those old audio cassettes or I would have worn them out by now! She has had a wonderful professional career, but that is not why I care so much about her.

Born in Chicago, Orr was raised from childhood in California by an aunt and uncle who provided her with voice, acting and dance lessons. As a child she learned the importance of giving and caring for those in need. She would walk to the market with her aunt and then walk home with two grocery bags. Only, when they got home they only had one bag. Why? Because one bag was left at the home of someone who had a greater need than her family.

Some people give monetarily to those who need it. But Esther is one who gives of herself. Both are important, but I’d like to share a little more about my friend Esther.

She helps people who are unable to get around by picking them up and taking them on errands. Someone sick? You can count on Esther to check in regularly to see how they’re doing. A cheerful visitor is so important to the healing process. (Both my husband and I can vouch for that.)

Esther’s late pianist and arranger and his vocalist wife lived in LA. After he passed away, his daughter took her mom, his wife, to live with her in Texas. Last year she was terminally ill and wanted to see Esther and her son before she passed.

So, on short notice, Esther and son, flew to Dallas for two days. On route to the airport, they were rear ended by an eighteen-wheeler. Luckily, they were able to walk okay and had no pain, so they continued on with their plans to go to Dallas. When they arrived, the wife and Esther sang together after she realized it wasn’t a dream and that they were really there. Esther said that the smile on her face was worth everything.

Sometimes you run into someone you haven’t seen in ages. That happened to Esther the other day. She was getting a pedicure and was so tired she wanted to fall asleep for a short time. To relax, she softly sang to herself but her voice is so distinctive that another customer heard her and came up and said “Hello. I’d know that voice anywhere.” It was an ex-student of Esther and they hadn’t seen each other for more than 17 years.

Esther told me the best thing anyone has said to her is “you have a beautiful voice, a beautiful face, and especially a beautiful heart.” I agree completely.

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