Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paying It Forward

I am one of those people who adores craft fairs but who rarely buys a thing because I “could easily make one of those” myself. I am one of those people who paws through magazine articles showing clever projects and who vows I’ll “make one of those” next season. Of course, I never do get around to making those items, but I know I fully intend to do so in the future.

My grandmother, Dad’s Mom, began painting in her golden years, so there’s still hope for me. My Mom nicknamed her “Grandma Moses” after the American folk artist who also began her painting career at an advanced age. Grammy’s paintings hang in my parents’ home and in a few of my siblings’ houses also. Grammy was working her way through her list of grandchildren, giving each one a painting, but of course, being one of the youngest, I did not receive one before she died. Still, I’ve long adored her artwork and it makes me so happy to know that she picked up the hobby later in life. My Nana, my Mom’s Mom, had an incredible talent for needlework. She knitted, did crochet, embroidery, and tatting. My prized gift from her was a box of knitted doll clothes along with a set of twin dolls, half the size of a Barbie. The clothes included pants, jackets, dresses, shoes, and various styles of hats. I remember playing with them constantly as a child and later I preserved them and gave them to my two daughters. When my daughters grew too old to play with dolls, I put Nana’s knitted clothes and the dolls back into my hope chest. Someday I hope to take them out for my future grand-daughters when they visit me.

My Mom knitted, did needlepoint, and she also took time to learn how to make baskets. Additionally she took a ceramics class and later painted porcelain. Again, I was too young to receive any gifts that she made (a nativity set and Christmas tree for my sister who was married and had her own home at the time for example), but I loved seeing the various crafts she’d made around the house. Other family members and friends displayed their share of talents too. Some made fabric dolls, photo albums, curtains, and jewelry. Others made their own greeting cards or sewed their children’s clothes.

I’ve tried my hand at some crafts too, but none seem to stick with me. Regretfully I never did learn how to knit. However, I’ve vowed to return to my love of painting with acrylics (a few still life paintings I did long ago still hang in my parents’ house), although truth be told, a starter set my husband sweetly bought me for Christmas a few years ago remains untouched. I made a lovely needlepoint wall hanging for my Mom that took me most of my first pregnancy to finish twenty years ago, but I never did finish making a single item of needlepoint to place in my own home. I sewed a few aprons as a teen but then never continued to sew as my children with their duct taped Halloween costumes can attest to. In the last twenty years I have baked gifts of cookies, candies, and breads though, and I’ve used my love of photography, videography, digital storytelling, and old-fashioned writing to build meaningful presents for loved ones.

So, last year a “Pay It Forward” challenge popped up on Facebook. We were invited to place ourselves on a short list of lucky recipients who would receive a hand-made present from a friend if quick enough to respond. Then we were to post our own invite to have others place their names, requesting a hand-made present from us in one year’s time. At the time it seemed to be a lovely opportunity fostering love and friendship through items made by our own hands. I remember thinking of a few things I might make, for again, I am always big on ideas if weak or short on time in my follow through. I all but forgot about the challenge, however, as the months passed.

Then today I opened a box I received in the mail. Inside I found a note from my kindergarten teacher, a wonderful woman who worked for 38 years as a public school teacher before retiring this past spring. Miss Thames had knitted me a beautiful prayer shawl to wrap around myself as I sat on my couch with my puppy. I was immediately touched by the sweetness of her note and the warmth of the gesture. Forever appreciative of the dedicated time and talent displayed by the handiwork of my former teacher, I will treasure that shawl always.

Tonight I am again thinking of that “Pay it Forward” challenge. I’ll have to do some digging to remember who I promised presents to, and I’ll now wrack my brain to think of how I might similarly touch a few dear friends of mine with a hand-made treasure. Maybe I should return to my love of acrylics. Maybe I should return to needlepoint. But first I thought it best to use my hands to type a sincere thank you to my teacher. Not only do I wrap that shawl around my shoulders on this chilly winter evening, but I do so resolving to push ahead the generosity and goodwill displayed to me by helping others. It is my hope that the time and talent within my own hands can spread exponentially.

The future must be seen in terms of what a person can do to contribute something, to make something better, to make it go where he believes with all his being it ought to go. - Frederick R. Kappel

No comments:

Post a Comment