Years ago, my badass therapist, Jennifer Hilt, told me about another badass woman named Joy Brown Meredith.
I had heard of her, of course. Meredith is well-known in Palm Springs for many reasons. The owner of Crystal Fantasy and Joy of Life Wellness Center, she is also active in the “politics” of downtown via the Main Street Palm Springs business association, and is a co-admin for many local Facebook pages, including Palm Springs Neighborhood Group, one of my favorite places to find service recommendations in Palm Springs.
Here’s the story I was told: Hilt was doing intake at Desert Regional Medical Center when a homeless man was admitted. Part of intake is getting the name of the person’s next of kin, caretaker or contact person. This gentleman produced Joy Brown Meredith’s business card.
Hilt was skeptical, but called anyway: “Hi, I’m calling from Desert Regional, and this is likely a mistake, but I have a homeless gentleman who says you are his contact.”
“Oh yeah,” Meredith replies. “That’s my homeless guy, William.”
In my hopeful mind, the story continues that all of the merchants in her area adopted homeless people and took care of them, and in return, they stayed away from the stores during business hours, and were allowed to sleep outside at night to deter burglars.
Meredith dispels that myth. “I wanted that to be,” she sighs, “but it never happened.”
Her first homeless guy, she tells me, was named Fred.
“Fred taught me something,” Meredith says. “He said there’s three kinds of homeless people: There’s homeless; there’s helpless; and there’s hopeless. … The ‘hopeless people’ didn’t mean that they were actually hopeless, but it was probably hopeless for me to be able to help them. Some of them just need a home, which could be a more simple solution. Some of them are just helpless; they needed some stuff, but they needed somebody to champion them to help them be able to fix some things. Maybe they had fines. There are a lot of circumstances that make somebody homeless.”
She pauses for a moment. “Can you imagine living on the street in 120-degree weather?”
I break into a sweat just thinking about it as she continues: “There are just so many different things we could do that can, at least, help alleviate that suffering to some extent. In my opinion, the only way you really succeed with the homeless problem is one-on-one. Like, you see a homeless guy on your block every day. Go over there and talk to him. Sometimes they just need something little, like they lost their driver’s license, so now they can’t get a job anywhere. Sometimes it’s so minute.”
Meredith has never been homeless, but she was a victim of some awful things as a pre-teen in Chicago. Those horrific events were compounded when she ended up in a school that was the subject of two documentaries. It was the worst of times.
Although Meredith is a self-proclaimed open book, some of her family members have strong feelings recalling the trauma she went through, and I respect that, so I won’t say much more. What I will say is that Meredith is a living, breathing example of an incredibly brave woman who has overcome life’s injustices—and made the decision to not just survive, but to thrive.
Meredith recalls the moment she stepped off the plane in Palm Springs.
“It was springtime—April, I think. I was still wearing a winter coat, because there was snow on the ground in Maine. This was back when they used to roll the stairs up for you to get off the plane, and I got off, and the whole sky was a color blue I had never seen before. It was 360 degrees of WOW! I never wanted to leave.”
So she didn’t. Palm Springs is where, at 19, she married the love of her life, Scott Meredith. Together, they built their family, and then their first business—Crystal Fantasy, the latter with the help of her landlord, Henry Frank. He was her benefactor, as well as an advocate for the homeless.
Meredith’s father, a well-known contractor, gave her some great life advice: “Find something you love, then build a business around it.” Her belief in the healing power of crystals (she had migraines; a friend recommended a crystal she rubbed on her temples; it worked) is why she came to open Crystal Fantasy in 1987, as well as, eventually, a marijuana dispensary, the Joy of Life Wellness Center, in 2018.
Crystal Fantasy is now in its third location. The couple made sure, from the starting line, that every space had a family area. The adult Merediths took turns running the store; she and Scott made sure they never had to choose between their family and their livelihood.
Meredith is as friendly as the day is long, but make no mistake: She is no pushover. She’s tireless in her quest to help the homeless, passionate about teaching people the powers of crystals, and devoted to making her adopted town of Palm Springs the best place to live in the world—not just for herself, but for the entire community.
One anecdote, to take us out on a fun note: I asked if the family had pets.
“Oh, all kinds,” she replies. “An iguana, a potbellied pig. I had a rat that used to sit on my shoulder. Generally, people get weird about rats, but you put Barbie clothes on a rat, and suddenly, it’s adorable.”
I let out a genuine laugh. That little moment, that simple sentence, has kept me chuckling since. Her name, Joy, absolutely suits her.
For more information on Crystal Fantasy, visit www.crystalfantasy.com. For more information about Joy of Life Wellness Center, visit www.joyoflifewellnesscenter.com. Have an idea for someone to be profiled? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.