The 12 Days of Christmas Blessings at the shelter
It was just a plain cardboard box labelled with my name and address. Hopewell Hill, NB was the only clue as to the sender.
I knew who sent it. Sharon Wells. I'd heard from Sharon for the first time in November 2006 when she wrote to ask if there was anything she could do for the shelter. "My family is very grateful for the program and services that you and your association offer to the homeless and working poor in Calgary. Our daughter benefited from your services and our son may have been there too. He returned home this week and we had not seen him since 2002. This is one of the best Christmas gifts one can have that you cannot put under the tree; love of your family."
She's been sending hand knit mittens and toques every year for the past three years. This year she wrote:
"Enclosed is a box of hand made mitts and hats from two gals from new Brunswick who truly believe in the work that you and your volunteers offer the residents of Calgary. As in the past, you have supported our children as they went out west to find employment, and start a new life, that may not have been so glamorous, and ended up in your shelter.
In our appreciation, please accept these small tokens, made with huge hearts by mothers who know what it is like to have a child that has lived on the streets in Calgary. May these warm gifts from our heart help others that are in need this coming winter.
As in past years, these items are made with wool from sheep that have grazed in New Brunswick, wool spun and manufactured at Briggs & Little in New Brunswick and knitted by myself, a New Brunswicker and Marg, a Newfoundlander.
May you and your volunteers know that your work has not gone unnoticed but has encouraged many, even mothers on the east coast of Atlantic Canada."
A plain cardboard box. A label with just my name and address and a return address in Hopewell Hill, NB, a town I'd never heard of until a woman named Sharon contacted me to ask what she could do to thank us for caring for her child until he could return home again. A plain cardboard box that held all the prayers and hopes of mothers the world over. May my child come home, safe and sound -- for Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan. Whatever the occasion. May my child come home, safe and sound.
I opened the box and cried. Earlier in the day I'd received a box of belongings from James Bannerman. Staff had cleaned out his locker. Culled the items that were not personal and sent to my office those things they believed had value to his family or which could add value to the art program. I'd cried when I'd opened the box of James' goods too. Those tears had been of sadness. Sorrow. Loss.
When I opened Sharon's box my tears were tears of joy. Of gratitude. Of hope.
We never know when something we do will make a difference. We never know what that difference will be. We never know whose heart we'll touch.
In receiving Sharon and Marg's gifts from their heart, knit in hands of love, my heart was touched and moved and filled with gratitude. The simple gesture has made a difference. It is felt in the brightly coloured, warm woolen mittens they knit with such tender loving care. The wool is soft. Deep rich colours. Red. Green. Gold. Brown. Beige. Orange. Blue. Colours of the rainbow. A rainbow of colours knit into a box.
This is an amazing world. A world where lack and scarcity walk our streets and remind us that gratitude is the path to abundance. That when we count our blessings we build a bridge to the other side of the street that lights the path for those seeking a way back home.
This is an amazing world where on one side of the street people walk wrapped up in the warm coats of lives stitched together from one moment to the next filled with things to do, places to go, people to see. A world where, sadness and bleakness wear weary paths to the place where shelter is found in every kind of weather, just across the street.
A world where, just across the nation, mothers, like Sharon and Marg, sit together and while away the dark hours of winter to the soothing hum of knit one, pearl one. Their hope is knit into the truth that, no matter how far they are from the streets of Calgary, they can make a difference with their constant knitting together of woolen mittens cast on needles of love.
A world where two mothers spend their hot summer days on the porch knitting and chatting stringing together pearls of gratitude for the gifts their children received while so far from home.
A world where in the cool of autumn evenings, knitting needles click and two mothers create a gift that will shelter the hands of those who have been left out in the cold.
With each knit one, pearl one, Sharon and Marg stitch together the possibility of hope arising in the hearts of those who receive their gifts -- no matter the state of their lives or their position at the shelter -- because each stitch has been cast with a pearl one of gratitude, a knit one of hope.
In opening the box of multi-coloured mittens, I was reminded that when we knit one in hope, pearl one in gratitude, we stitch into the tapestry of this world all the love a mother's heart can hold. A love that, no matter the distance between us, can never be torn apart, can never come unstitched.
This year, there are those on our Christmas WishList who have asked for warm mittens. This year, they will receive the gift of not just a pair of warm woolen mittens, but also a gift knit with love in caring hands.
May their hearts be touched, their spirits renewed and their lives be forever changed. May they know the love that went into every stitch. May they know that across this wondrous land, there are those who care, no matter how far from home they may roam.
And may they know that somewhere a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, grandmother, grandfather, someone, perhaps many someones, wait, hoping and praying that one day they will come home, safe and sound.