top of page
  • damonortt

Gabby Greene

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

There is a star among us.

I learned of Gabby Greene in an odd way - by knocking on doors. When I first got my real estate license, I had nothing better to do than walk around my neighborhood and knock on doors to introduce myself as the local Realtor. Knocking on doors is not an easy thing to do. Most people peek out from their window to see what kind of crazy person is knocking on their door, and when they answer, act as if leprosy just came to say hello. Some people are rude, most are just short, and give little effort to hide their annoyance at an uninvited caller. There was one pleasant exception, however.

Carla Greene opened her door and I told her who I was, what I was doing, and a little about myself. She listened. Weird. There was something unusual about Carla: she was nice. We chatted for a bit, and the conversation turned to her daughter, Gabby, who was then fifteen years old.

Carla is a very proud mom, and she has every reason to be. Gabby had recently returned from living in New York for a year while she was cast in a Broadway play called School of Rock. It’s a big deal.

I thought she must mean some type of local production based off of the movie, or that maybe there’s an actual school called School of Rock, where they teach kids to play instruments, or something of the sort. But, no. Broadway.

For real Broadway. To be precise: Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway, New York City, New York. She was cast into the rolls of “Shonnell” and later, “Tomika,” where she acted, sang and danced in front of 1,600 filled seats.

Gabby is a very, very busy young lady. When I asked her mother for an interview with Gabby, she asked me to call her the following Monday so that we could set up a time to meet. When we spoke, we agreed to meet the next Wednesday, and she asked if I could do 7:45 or 8PM. My eye began to twitch at the thought of being out past 8 on a school night ... or any night, if I'm being honest. A guy like me needs all the rest he can get. Usually I’m in my sweat pants and recliner by that hour.

This made me realized two things. First, I really must be acting old like my wife says. And second, I wasn’t talking to average people. Gabby’s schedule is almost always full with something: a play, student government, chorus, class trips, etc. They were legitimately fitting me into her tight schedule. I was humbled, and words of discipline came to mind: work ethic, intention, goals, purpose, excellence.

When I got to their home, I rang the door bell and Gabby’s father, answered. He opened the door, smiled warmly and introduced himself as Sam. There was something about him I immediately liked. Sam invited me in and took my coat, and made me feel like I was very welcome there. Carla followed right behind and greeted me warmly, as well, and then appeared Gabby, smiling, casual, and confident. We sat down in their formal living room and began the interview. Carla and Sam disappeared into the back of the house and left us to chat.

It was clear that Gabby is exceptional. Most teenagers would be nervous to tell a complete stranger their life details, and give one word responses to the most basic questions. Gabby was at ease and spoke more eloquently than most adults.

We spoke for forty-five minutes. She told me of her experience in School of Rock, and how she got there. “I was in this program called Premier Program. It’s a talent showcase where you find managers and agents. Mom found it on facebook and thought it was a scam, but we tried it anyway, and ended up going to Florida for a competition. I ended up getting signed there with an agent and a manager, and they got me the audition for the broadway production. I did an open call and then I started getting callbacks and they offered me a roll in the ensemble there.” I know actors who would give their left arm to even get an audition for a Broadway play.

She told me about singing the National Anthem at Game 5 of the World Series, but that wasn’t her first time singing the National Anthem in front of a crowd. In fact, she’s sung at three regular season Phillies games, three games at Madison Square Gardens, and twice at Wells Fargo Center. In a time when many were kneeling in protest during the Anthem, Gabby was singing it.

But it doesn’t mean she didn’t recognize a need for change. She believed that a good relationship between police and students was lacking because of the civil unrest at the time.

“A lot of the students had negative perceptions about police officers because of what was going on in the country, so we wanted to give the students an opportunity to talk to police, and actually fix some of those issues, or misconceptions they have of each other.”

To that end, she founded a local chapter of the NAACP Youth Leadership Committee. Her goal was to change district curriculums to be more inclusive of other races and cultures.

Her efforts resulted in the district updating the curriculum by implementing a new textbook that addressed their concerns, and the creation of a student/police activity day this year. “And I see the police a lot more often at the school, talking [and] mingling with the students, which is really nice.”

A seventeen year old girl has affected a small, but very real change in our community.

Gabby’s story, however, is not the whole story of Gabby. After we wrapped up the interview, Sam and Carla came back in the room and we began chatting.

Carla told me of her older two children, and her work, where she often strikes up conversations with customers. Before retirement, she was the principal of Overlook Elementary, and now she’s working part time in retail and loves meeting people and striking up conversations. Often, they’re not small conversations.

People open up to Carla. It’s no surprise because you feel heard with the first word you say to her, and this is rare. Most of us just want to talk, but Carla wants to listen, and this will sometimes give her an opportunity to be encouraging to customers who may be going through a difficult time. And, as it happens, being kind opens hearts and minds.

“People come in with different views, and I get to hear them, and learn from them. I like to have the conversations that are … you can have [actual] conversations, we don’t have to agree; it doesn’t have to be a fight. And you can see a sense of relief [when] they realize they can say what they’re thinking.”

You may not leave a conversation with Carla having a different opinion, but you will have been able to speak your mind and be heard. It’s exactly what we need more of these days. The phrase “be the change you want to see in the world” comes to mind.

Gabby’s story also includes a half brother and sister from Carla’s first marriage. Her first husband, Walter, died of colon cancer in 2001. A mutual friend then introduced her to Sam who is from New Jersey, “who [she] didn’t know from a can of paint.” “He is such a blessing!”

They were married in less than a year.

She continued, “at that point, Sam didn’t have any children, and we wanted to have one together. We had three miscarriages, [but] we kept trying, and here she is” as she smiled casually and glanced over to Gabby.

Sam continued the story of his daughter’s birth. He spoke of it in detail: the challenges, the grandparents’ comments, the doctor’s comments and procedures, the concerns. All of the details he spoke of, while ordinary and common to all parents, are magical and special to a father and mother. Especially this father.

He told me that he bonded with Gabby all night because Carla was asleep. He had no inflection in his voice, as if he were telling me about making a sandwich, but the detail and nuance of his memory expressed just how special that day was to him. As the father of a daughter, I know exactly what he was describing. It’s indescribable.

Sam is in his early sixties, tall, and soft spoken, and it’s clear that he and Carla love each other as much as they did when they married 20 years ago. I admired him even after just a few moments of hearing him speak. He mentioned that he used to sing in the Philharmonic glee club.

“I have some musical background. I never did it professionally, but I always had a love for music. It’s one of the things we bonded over. She loved different kinds of music … When we met, I thought that she only listened to church music since she was the choir director.”

“When we would drive to church we would do three part harmonies,” Carla added.

“Singing goes a long way” Sam continued. “I tell [Gabby] that whether she does it professionally or not, (which I think, down the line, she will), that is her emotional channel, and it’s how she soothes herself. She’s blessed in that her self-soothing in that it’s medicinal to other people … it’s a ministry.”

I’ve seen videos of Gabby singing. It’s true - it’s more than just singing. And like a father’s love, it, too, is indescribable.

And while Sam is a father to Gabby, he’s also the stepfather of Carla’s first two children, Stephanie and Chris, who are both successful adults. However, it wasn’t easy for Chris to accept another man into his life, Sam recalled.

“We had some struggles after his father passed,” Carla said.

I thought of how hard that must’ve been for Chris. Sam won me over in a few short minutes, but it took time for Chris to accept him, and there’s something about that which is honorable.

Sam is gentle and kind. He calls himself a softy, and I think that’s why they eventually earned Chris’ respect. “We have a very close relationship now,” Sam said. “He felt like it would be unfair to his father’s memory, but there’s a bond there, now. We talk about his father all the time.”

Carla listened to her husband as he spoke of his relationship with her son. I got the feeling that it wasn’t the first time she heard him speak of it. It seemed like a struggle that they all four went through, not just Sam and Chris. They shared that heavy burden, and their love for one another showed.

Carla summed up her feelings for him by saying “Sam, he’s a blessing in my life. And I hope I’m a blessing in yours,” she said, as she looked up at him.

“Yeah, for sure,” he replied, sincerely, and put his arm around her waist. Their interaction made the word “goals” comes to mind. I hope my wife and I love each other like that twenty years from now.

Our conversation concluded with Carla talking about her stepmother who has dementia, which is particularly difficult for her. She is a graduate of University of Penn, she was a lecturer, and speaks three languages.

“She went from being the smartest person in the room to not being able to string a sentence together,” Sam described. “But if you ask her … ‘listen mom, I had a really bad day, I need you to pray for me,’ she can pray you through! That’s all there! Spiritually, she’s on target! You’ll be crying when you leave that prayer.”

The Greenes are a middle class family living in a middle class town, surrounded by average folks like you and me. Gabby goes to public school, and she has wonderful parents who support her every step of the way. They’re people of faith and goodness. People of hard work, discipline and principles. They have struggles and sad stories, they’ve had losses and gains, successes and challenges, all of which are at once ubiquitous to the world and intimate to them.

The challenges they’ve faced are normal. There’s any number of people who’ve gone through the same things. But the Greenes are a beautiful example of how exceptional normal can be. They’re a beautiful example of what grace looks like.

They exemplify the highest character trait for which we should strive: people who love people who are not like themselves. From different politics to different religions, races, and anything in between, they’re the type of people who will listen to you and make you feel heard, and this may actually be the recipe for how to raise a child, a daughter, like Gabby Greene.

The last thing I asked Gabby was, of all her accomplishments, and there are many I haven’t mentioned, which one she is most proud of. It wasn’t singing the National Anthem in at the World Series, it wasn’t being a professional stage actor in a Broadway play at the age of 14, it wasn’t her God-given talent to sing so beautifully. Her answer is the essence of what makes her who she is.

“I don’t know if there’s any one specific thing. As long as I’m making my family proud, I feel like … when my family says they’re proud of me … it means a lot.”

The word “love” comes to mind.

445 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page