“Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they just have heart.”
Crafting for Courage and Service
On any given day, Sue Myers works hard at crafting her latest mystery novel. A member of Sisters in Crime, Sue learned how to research her Chicago based books before creating a riveting plot. Creativity, attention to detail, and perseverance were the skills this author used when she took time out from writing to volunteer to make a quilt with the inscription, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor.” Sue joined a group of women who stitched together red, white and blue fabric into comforters for veterans returning from the Middle East. These quilts were tangible reminders of America’s appreciation and gratitude to these military men. Sue Meyers discovered the truth of the words of Catherine Roberts, the founder of Quilts of Valor. “National service can be as complicated as giving your life for your country, or as simple as making a Quilt of Valor.”
Crafting for Hugs
Mary Gouge’s life in Montana covered dawn to dusk with the everyday activities of living. She did not need another project. But when her son entered a facility for troubled youth, Mary noticed on visiting day that many of the teens had been “thrown away” by their families. A few parents lingered for a half hour, then sped off to shop. With no visits at all, the young men suffered emotionally from abandonment issues. Out of concern for their self-esteem, Mary began “Wrapped in Love”. She enlisted others to help her stitch twin sized comforters for the boys so they could pull the fabric around them at night as the arms of a hug. The quilts were given, filled with love and care so the young men knew someone watched over them. Mary’s motto is: “Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.” And she did.
Crafting for a Thimble Full of Precious
The NeoNatal Unit at Wellington Hospital is blessed with a quilting group who create crib size quilts that are “gorgeous.” These stitches adhere to several rules from the nurses at the NeoNatal Unit: 100% cotton fabric only because synthetics can carry static which messes with medical equipment; no red fabric because the staff may confuse the color with blood; and the use of soothing, relaxing pastel tones for the babies. These intricately designed masterpieces of fabric art are put over incubators to dim the harsh lights. They are placed as covers over the edges of the cribs. Babies are snuggled in them as they are held and fed. These quilts are washed daily in commercial laundry machines, so their life span is short. For the anxious parents who visit their young babies, the community’s commitment to life is demonstrated by the beautiful quilts.
“It’s not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing,” states Mother Theresa.
Crafting for Change
In Portland, Oregon, the women with needles, thread and sewing machines take their knowledge of stitchery to women who long to learn these skills. The mission of this group is to use “quilting to change women’s lives, in prison and beyond.” Committing to a long term relationship with their students, each quilter adjusts to work with a variety of learning styles. By the end of the course, the students are taught to measure to a quarter inch with a ruler, to read a pattern, to sew a straight seam, and to complete three quilts. One comforter is for the maker to keep while the other two are donated to a summer camp for children who have experienced the death of a loved one. As Muhammad Ali says, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” Part of the healing process for these victims of domestic violence and homelessness who have committed crimes is being able to give back to society. Through quilting, they gain skills and something deeper. As one inmate reports, “I learned patience and I regained pride by completing something that someone else would appreciate. I also regained a sense that I could accomplish something”. Women helping women to navigate the fabric of life. To find a common thread.
Crafting for Comfort
My sister in law, Lois, suffered from breast cancer. The quilting guild in her church presented her with a strikingly cheerful burgundy and hunter green lap quilt. Knowing that it had been stitched with prayer, Lois felt the comfort of the women who made it. When my husband returned home from a double hernia, the Prayer Shawl Ministry at our church presented him with a prayer shawl as he recovered. I still put the prayer shawl on when I want to meditate. Visitors to our home are drawn by the green and brown Chevron pattern, and also put it around their shoulders when I explain that it is a prayer shawl crocheted by a woman who is staying awake all night as she volunteers once a week at a homeless shelter. These volunteers who crochet or stitch for those in pain and recovery will never know the meaningfulness of their gift.
Mary Tatem, an avid sewer, feels that “when we practice giving to others, God changes us and we gain the unexpected blessing of receiving extra joy as we become more like Christ.”
Quilters are comforters.
“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Ghandi