Cheryl Lofton, 57, is a third-generation tailor. Her shop, Cheryl A. Lofton and Associates, is in the District’s U Street corridor and draws customers from the Washington area. She grew up in the District’s Brookland neighborhood and lives in Silver Spring, Md., with her partner of 31 years. They have two grown sons. This is an edited transcript from her interview with writer Laura Sessions Stepp.
I was raised in a traditional Christian home and went with my family to Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. My grandmother was huge in the church. She had a choir named after her.
We went to church to believe in Jesus. I was asked one Easter what the holiday was for and I said to celebrate the birth of Christ. My grandmother whipped me, and everyone got quiet like E.F. Hutton was in the room. I had to get baptized later, and someone said, “There’s Mariellen’s granddaughter who doesn’t know when Jesus was born.”
I eventually left that church and went to different churches but didn’t believe some of the things I would hear. I felt like everything in church was scary: God would throw someone in hell for telling a lie? What finally made me leave church altogether is, I was reading about astrology and someone said: “Don’t read that. You’ll go to hell.” I thought: “Really? Didn’t people plant crops by the sun and moon? Didn’t the wise men follow a star? Why are people tripping out on me?”
Every day is a spiritual journey that includes the books I read, nature, my clients. I had a client, Stanley Mayes, an attorney, who became a friend and is now a business partner. He runs a shoe shop next to me. He judges each person individually. There was a drug addict across the street, and people were talking about how far down he had gone in his life. Stanley said, “The only difference between him and me is that I walk on one side of the street and he walks on the other.” He taught me to never judge a book by the cover, how a person looks now is not necessarily where they’re always going to be.
When I wake up, I thank the Creator that I have another day to affect another person in a positive way. A young woman came in my shop recently for a final fitting of her wedding dress. In 48 hours, she was going to be a wife, and she was a wreck. Her mother was a wreck, too. I thought to myself, “If I can give these people some calmness, it can make a big difference.” They left happy, with the dress fitting perfectly. The one thing they didn’t have to worry about was how the bride was going to look.
The best two moments of your life are being born and finding out what you were born for. My spiritual path is all about, why am I here? I know why I’m here. I’m a service person, making sure other people look how they want to look every single day. And it’s not just about clothes. I listen to everything from their marital problems to their medical health, and will give them a reality check. It’s kind of like being a counselor.
Laura Sessions Stepp is an author and a former staff writer for The Washington Post.