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A couple of weeks ago, my friend j. IM’d and asked if I would make a hat for a friend of hers just beginning her chemo journey. I agreed, of course, and when she sent the yarn, I happily set aside my other projects and whipped up a hat. When that used half the skein, I decided to complete the set with some wrist warmers.
Something hit me while I was working on this project and another comfort gift last week. I was more content than I had been in a while. In fact, as I packaged them up for shipping, I was saddened the project was over.
I love crocheting, and, yes, I love crocheting things for myself. However, the peace that fills me while I’m making a gift – especially a gift for someone truly in need of comfort – is undeniable.
I grew up with service being an integral part of my social life. Girl Scouts and 4-H both put a heavy emphasis on serving others and the Earth as part of being a good citizen. I was raised in a religion that heavily emphasizes social justice. I lost sight of this to a certain extent upon reaching adulthood. That is to say, while I understood the necessity of being a giving person, I didn’t often make the time or effort to follow through.
Over the past few years, though, the true meaning and purpose of life has begun to cement itself in my conscious mind. And it is this: It is all about love, empathy, and understanding. We are all one. We are all indivisible. A woman three thousand miles away is a sister to us all. The cap I make her will not cure her cancer, but the knowledge that someone cares for her enough to make the effort may bring a smile to her face on a day when she really needs it. A positive attitude will help her in her healing.
Giving and sharing are central to my belief system. It is not enough to do for others to fulfill a duty, or because one thinks she should. I do, because it is right. I cannot understand how I could live life correctly without it, or if I am unable to contribute for a time, without supreme empathy. Yes, of course, I also give because it feels good. I am only human, after all. But it cannot be the only reason or the driving force. I cannot feel only good about making such a small gesture when there is so much dire need; there is always a certain amount of despair that accompanies it. Sadness that I am not doing more. I can only do as much as I can do with the resources that I have, and I suppress the negative emotion once I acknowledge it, because I strongly believe that it does little good to dwell on it.
Of course, I need to work to achieve balance in this, as in all areas of my life. (Balance is always my biggest struggle.) My boys would both like me to crochet something for them, and I have another pair of socks to make for myself with the yarn gift from my husband. I am also beginning to feel pulled back towards digital scrapbooking, but I’m resisting. I’m afraid that I will follow my old pattern: when I pick up another creative pursuit, my current one gets shoved in a drawer, often for years. I’m not ready to give up on crochet, even for a short break, but can I balance both digiscrapping and crocheting as leisure time pursuits? Perhaps keeping service projects going with the crochet will help prevent its decline? I suppose the only thing to do is try.
Today is Veterans’ Day, and I want to start with a giant thank you to everyone who has fought for the freedom of their fellow human beings. And a second thank you to their families for living without their loved ones for extended periods of time, and sometimes forever.
I’m a Navy Brat; my dad is a Vietnam Vet and was a career naval officer. I’m so proud of him and thankful for his service. I know what it’s like to grow up with your parent sometimes there and sometimes not, although Daddy always made an extreme effort to be present, even when he was half a world away. (I still have the postcards he sent from “Lt. Cdr. Daddy,” “Cdr. Daddy,” and finally “Capt. Daddy.”) And while he was working his rear off in situations I can’t fathom, Mom was doing the job of two parents, working full time, and often going to school as well. Oh, and she dealt with cancer, too. (And Daddy dealt with being thousands of miles away from his wife with cancer.) So, like I said – thank you to our veterans, and thank you to their families.
I want to write tonight about some other vets. The ones who rarely get thank you’s, even on Veterans’ Day. There are two words that should never exist in tandem, but they do: Homeless Veteran. Men and women who fought for our country and didn’t have the luxury of families to help them through what became the pain of reentry into society. Or who were wounded and without benefits. Or, or, or…
I know times are tough, but if you have space in your budget for a charitable contribution, I urge you to find your local shelter that supports homeless veterans and make a donation. Winter is coming…stop by the store and pick up a few hats, scarves, gloves and blankets and drop them by. These shelters receive little government assistance, and when the economy takes a downturn, donors are few.