The Mountain of Clothes

This is a true story about too much of a good thing. When Hurricane Katrina hit with such devastation, the entire nation would have to come to New Orleans' rescue. I was just coming out of a TV contract and teaching martial arts through The Salvation Army. I was asked if I could help TSA by acting as the division's Public Information Officer. No problem, since I knew most of the media members on a first-name basis anyway.

When the now-homeless victims of the hurricane were bused into Denver, they literally had no possessions to bring with them. They needed everything — from basics such as shampoo and toothpaste to food and especially clothes. I made the executive decision, along with the Corps Officer of the thrift-stores division, to put out a public plea for donated clothing items.

The city of Denver generously responded, like it so often does. Seventy-two hours later, I got a call from the officer: "Karen, you got to stop with the clothes."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Just swing by the back lawn on your way into work," he responded. I really couldn't imagine what the problem was. I mean, worst-case scenario, we could always take the donated items to our thrift stores.

Now, if you've ever visited Denver, you know that there are vast areas of grasslands, with foothills and mountains in the background. But as I was headed in the next morning, I realized I didn't recall that we had a mountain this close to the plains. Then everything turned into slow motion as I began to realize: It wasn't a mountain of any natural substance; it was literally a mountain of clothes!

"Oh, my God! Now what do we do?" I said as I hopped out of my car and shut the door. The Corps Officer looked at me and said, "Well, now we got a problem. Not only do we have enough donated items to clothe Africa, we gotta pay to clean it up and send it there."

Just then, three more cars drove up to dump more clothes onto the mountain.

My fellow instructors, this was a lifetime lesson for yours truly on how important it is to initiate and maintain balance. Coming from a hard-style martial art, I pushed myself for more than a decade to achieve the strongest and highest kicks my body would allow. Then my teachers taught me one of the most valuable lessons through their own actions: They were falling apart.

From back surgeries all the way down to ankle problems, they ran the gauntlet of physical issues. Evidently, the body can take only so much of the "hard."

That's when I began to add a little soft training at the end of my classes, including yoga and tai chi. The girls were totally into it, and the boys hated it. My very big son, who was a second-degree black belt, fought me tooth and nail at the end of every class when I made him do a yoga session. Interestingly enough, today he actively seeks out yoga classes to maintain balance and flexibility as a college football player.

Here's the thing: I can see what's coming down the pike for all of us hard-style practitioners, and I feel obligated not only to practice soft-style arts but also to teach my students the meaning of balance — literally. Because there really can be "too much of a good thing" in life.

As for the mountain of clothes, I booked the Corps Officer on a TV news segment, and he made an official plea to halt all clothing donations. The mountain of clothing was boxed up and eventually shipped to a country where it was needed more. Lesson learned. We must always keep in mind the one word that will save us a lot of hardship in the end: balance.

To contact Karen Eden, send an email to or visit the Facebook group "The Eden Assignment."

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