Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Work of Our Hands

Last week I went to a women's association mission event at my church, where we learned about the work of Root International, a Christian organization that sends help wherever and whenever it's needed, although it has continuing operations with children's schools with Native Americans and in Mexico. It proved to be an especially meaningful event, because our town was a direct beneficiary of their work in September, when massive flooding hit our area. It was amazing to see that big trailer from Root International pull up in town, jammed full with mattresses and food and equipment to help with the losses right here.

Part of our program was to make small teddy bears to send with Root to children in need of a bit of comfort as well as more material help. For us, with the memory of our own disaster still fresh in our minds, doing so was particularly poignant. But as we sat around tables stuffing bears and sewing seams while we talked and laughed together, I was also reminded of the role handwork plays in women's lives. For generations, women have used the work of their hands not only to create necessary things for their families and others, but also to express their artistry and creative urges.

I don't have to go any farther than my cedar chest to see that expression of love and artistry. Looking at the Double Wedding Ring quilt created from postage-stamp-size patches by a Depression-era great-aunt or the Autumn Leaf quilt my mother made for me or the dresser scarves embroidered by my grandmother, I am reminded again of how precious the work of our hands can be. Each item seems to come with a memory attached, carrying love from previous generations. I've tried to express that appreciation often in my books, especially in my Amish stories. In Katie's Way, my latest book, I was able to express those feelings in the characters, both Englisch and Amish, who gather at Katie's quilt shop to work together, sharing their lives as they quilt.

So when I make doll clothes with one granddaughter and Christmas ornaments with another, I hope I'm doing my part to carry on that tradition. What hand work do you do? Do you find particular satisfaction in it? I hope so.