Saturday, January 3, 2009

A shared warmth during the holidays

This is a entry that I hesitated to post at the end of the year, since it might be misconstrued as self promoting, but after pondering it for over a month I am choosing to post it now. My reason being, like a small pebble cast into a still body of water, there is a ripple effect, like dominoes if you will. If by reading this entry, even one person is moved to reach out in any small way, I feel that the energy of paying your personal gifts forward will be accomplished. Even just by writing this, I feel it nourishes a positive energy that is in the spirit of this New Year and new administration of hope, and positive change. With Thanksgiving almost upon us and the forecast for Portland being an unusual Arctic blast of cold and snow in the forecast, I reflect on my greatly blessed life. A few weeks ago I awoke with the first thought entering my mind being that I felt compelled to reach out to the large homeless population living on the streets of Portland. I knew then and there what I wanted to do to help the people who at this time are not as blessed with all their needs being met as I am. I knew that if I could make a few small differences, that added up to a bigger gift. I went to the fabric store and bought 6 yards of polar fleece fabric and a dozen one size fits all $1 gloves. The week before Thanksgiving, I sat down at my sewing machine with my favorite music playing, and proceeded to sew 34 Neck Warmers. The sewing felt like a soothing meditation and I felt so at peace doing it. Often times creating art in your studio can feel self indulgent, even though I truly believe that in the creating, it does serve a much higher purpose. As I finished the 34th neck warmer only a few hours later, I felt thoroughly nourished. A few days later the forecast predicted one of the coldest spells we have ever had. With my trusty driver and supporter in every endeavor, Michael, we drove around the city in the pouring rain (o.k. so I did mention we live in Portland, right!) As we reached the streets with the largest group of people standing outside the shelters, who were hoping that the lottery number they picked would provide them a bed for the night, the rains let up. As I approached one gathering of men, they looked at me with a sense of surprise that someone would be offering them something to comfort them without having to ask for it. A few said no thanks but changed their minds when they saw their companions immediately putting them on. They said thank you with such sincerity, and said that I would be in their prayers as I said, they would be in mine. There was a sparkle in their eyes.They accepted the gift with gratitude and pride and with the spirit in which they were given. As I walked back to the car I stopped for a moment and looked back. There was a gathering of men all wearing the fleece neck warmers that I had stitched. We continued to drive around the streets stopping at every doorway or niche where there was someone standing with their worldly goods in tote, and I handed out the neck warmers until I sadly had to tell the remaining bystanders that I had none left. As I write this I am very choked up and filled with the sense of the deep warmth that they had provided to my heart in exchange for the warmth that I provided their necks during this especially cold winter. When I was flying to sunny San Francisco for Christmas, the people I had met were in my thoughts. We had the worst snow storm in decades before I flew out, postponing my flight for two days. I knew there were 34 warmer people on the streets of Portland. That was the gift I received this year.
As Mother Teresa said: "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."
Yesterday as the cold spell continued, Michael and I drove around once again and distributed the gloves. I was once again received with great surprise and gratitude. Next year I will once again sew the neck warmers, but will start much earlier in the fall, and try to make 100 of them to distribute. The price of the fleece and my time were minuscule compared to the gift of comfort, warmth, caring and kindness that it helped to provide. I end with another Mother Teresa quote that always inspires me.
"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

No comments: