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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.

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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.

It really wasn’t a surprise yesterday to hear a sermon discussing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our President Elect.  I didn’t really know what to expect out of the sermon (text and audio can be found here), but Anthony came through, as I knew he would.

There was a lot to think about (again, no surprise), so I’ll focus on the main idea I drew from the morning, society and history’s tendency to immortalize our heroes, to rob them of their humanity and foibles, and thus to do them and ourselves a great disservice.

We remember so many people from our past inaccurately.  Or, perhaps not inaccurately, but incompletely.  We see them for one event, or a series of them, and we forget that they were born of a human mother, had slips of the tongue, experienced massive self-doubt and cynicism, and sometimes just screwed up royally.

A story from Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father shared a time when he was overcome by cynicism and overwhelmed by the difficulty of a task, a time when he vowed never to make a speech again.  A friend of his set him straight, basically telling him to get his head out of his rear end and focus on the people who needed help.

Another story told of the Montgomery Bus Strike, and the request put to Dr. King to lead it.  He hesitated, not wanting the responsibility, until set straight and reminded of his abilities and the change he could make by Ralph Abernathy.

The latter story would be shocking to many who stopped to think about it.  THE Dr. M.L. King hesitating over leading a strike?  The event that would essentially launch his leadership of the civil rights movement?  But…that’s so human!

And that’s where we do ourselves and our world a disservice, because here’s the thing: We are all just as capable of making a change in the world as Dr. King or President Elect Obama.  We are all made of the same flesh and bone.  They made mistakes in their lives, and since Mr. Obama has many years ahead of him, he will probably make many more.  Just as we all will.

So, the perfection of our heroes cannot be an excuse on our part not to act for that in which we believe.  It is the responsibility of every one of us to be stewards of our fellow humankind, our planet, and our resources.  “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” and “I’m not a good speaker,” are no longer valid excuses once we realize that every person we idolize was or is as human as we are.

We all have our strengths and our resources and our convictions.  I may not have income to share with needy organizations at the moment, or the focus of mind to organize rallies, but I have a voice and a gift with words (and a blog, and Facebook, and Twitter), so I can share that.  For now, it will be enough.

What are your strengths and resources?  What are your convictions?  How will you use them to carry on the dream of peace, equality, and an end to suffering?

My boys

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