What If...There Were 25 Hours in the Day?

Friday, August 31, 2012

What if....
The beginning of a series of articles about building a better world: starting with your street, my city, and communities around the globe.

What if...there were 25 hours in the day? 

What would we do in those extra moments? 
Imagine them to be daylight moments.
Imagine them to be free-from arduous chores, daily work and baby-chasing moments.

Free moments for...
     laughing and smiling
     feeling sad
     feeling lost
     going outdoors
     talking to a friend
     writing a blog post
     eating chocolate without guilt
     doing nothing

Imagine an extra hour in the day.

Would you think to add value to your life, or the life of someone else?

Imagine you would spend those moments adding value to the life of someone else.
What would you do for someone else?

Would you...
     give a hug
     send a hand-written note
     say a prayer for them
     donate a dollar to charity
     knit them a gift
     bake them brownies
     wrap up their present with the ribbon you've been saving for something special
     let them take your turn
     pay for their morning coffee...just 'cuz you don't know them
     open the door for them to pass through first
     look them in the eye and smile

Could you do any of these, or any more acts of kindness you can possibly think of in that extra hour in the day?

Do you deserve to be whole first?

Would you add value to your own life first because you feel stressed, harried and busy right now?

Can we add true value to the life of someone else if we ourselves don't perceive value in our own life first?

What if we are lacking in our life?
Would we give a gift that is also lacking?
Would it then be best to use those free moments to nurture our own spirit and soul?
To rest, to rejuvenate, to renew, and to settle?

Would adding value to the life of someone else's life make us feel happy and whole and therefore add hope, faith, and love to our life in the end? 

What are your thoughts? What would you do if there were 25 hours in the day?

Operation Smile - Sew a Smile Bag for a Child

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

That moment still stands out to me so very clearly. It was as if drums were beating in my ears and tumblers rolled over and over in my stomach. I held my 2 year old son in my arms as I sat on that cold gurney with starched white sheets fitted tight. My little guy struggled to get away, crying and complaining loudly to the one person he felt could "save" him from this scary place and these scary people. Still I held him, my grip tight to help, and to comfort. I just wanted him to know I loved him so. I held his little body as the nurse put the sleeping gas to his little white nose and mouth. The mask smelled like bubble gum she told me. He was two. He'd never tasted bubble gum before. I sat on that thin mattress on metal, trembling, with my first-born in my lap as I tried to hold back my tears. What was I doing? Could I ever let go and hand him over? Then I felt his protest subside and his body go limp with unwanted rest. His eyes rolled closed and he let go.

I gave him to the nurses that day. I laid him down on those wrinkled white sheets and gave him to them. I could hear the Lord whisper to me that whatever happened, his little soul would be forever safe. I slipped my hand into my husband's soft hand and we walked slowly to the waiting room.

My mind turned over and over. Feelings of guilt, fear, and sadness swirled around and around like a washing machine with no cycle end. Was this right? Would the surgery fix it? Surgery, surgery!! Would he come back to us the same little boy, eager to please, lover of all vehicles with four tires, and excellent dancer to any music that comes upon his ears. Would this be the end of all the invasive testing, the poking and prodding, the forced medicines, the scary x-ray machines, the specialists, the insurance issues, and the waiting rooms? Or would this be the beginning?

That was 4 years ago. He is six now. He has a small scar on his belly where he had that surgery to fix his grade V kidney reflux. The procedure was three hours long. It was routine. It worked.

We were lucky. We had family support. And we had medical insurance and the money to afford this potentially life-changing surgery. In this very world we live in, others aren't so lucky. Some children suffer congenital defects that gravely affect their lives. And though corrective surgery is routine, and it works, there isn't money to get it. Operation Smile and its medical partners are working to change this for children with cleft palates around the globe.

Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit

Operation Smile is an international, non governmental organization that works to bring together caring medical professionals and the children needing surgery to correct cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. They estimate every three minutes, somewhere, a new baby is born with a cleft palate that leaves them often unable to eat, speak, or socialize. Many times, these babies are shunned, or rejected, and too often, parents are unable to afford a simple surgery that can be life-changing.

Since 1982, Operation Smile, with the help of a dedicated team of medical professionals, has helped enable more than 2 million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.

In addition to monetary donations, Operation Smile is seeking hand sewn Smile Bags. Volunteers fill these lovely little bags with toys and goodies for the children who are recovering from their surgery. Smile bags should be 12"X14", made of sturdy cotton fabric, and have a drawstring closure at the top. There is even a bag pattern with photos and clear sewing instructions right on the website.

When you are ready to donate your Smile Bags, fill out their Service Project Inventory Sheet and send it in with your bag donation to:
Operation Smile
Attn: WAREHOUSE/Service Project
6435 Tidewater Drive
Norfolk, VA 23509, USA

In addition to Smile Bags, you can use your sewing talent to make other needed items. Operation Smile also accepts no-no arm bandsblankets, quilts and afghans, and Smile Dolls. Check their website for specific instructions before you make your donation. Set up your sewing machine, get involved and give a child a smile.
*     *     *

I know how these parents feel when they are offered the choice of surgery. Grateful...and so very scared. I know how these parents feel while waiting to hear if their child is okay. And I know how the same parents feel many years later. Still grateful. I am sure their child is grateful too. I am grateful to share this giving opportunity with you.

The Giving Heart

Friday, August 24, 2012

I am new to this, I'll be the first to admit it. I am not talking about blogging though. If you check my Blogger profile, it says I've been at it since 2008, and I've written four blogs since then.

I mean I am new to action. That is, getting up and doing something real to make a difference. 
This is the first time I am really putting my money where my mouth is. Well, its better than that frankly. Since I don't have a lot of money, I am using my time and organizing talent to make a difference in someone's life who really needs it.

Have you just sat and watched opportunities to help drift by, untouched? Have you ever watched as someone tried to liberate that heavy grocery cart from the group that just would not...let...go? Or have you walked behind someone struggling to carry a heavy bag while holding a plant, a purse, and the hand of a small child whose inner compass seems to be pointing in the opposite direction? Have you ever let slip by that opportunity to say, "let me help you?" I know I have more times than I can remember. Sometimes I hesitated to interfere. Other times I feared rejection or embarrassment. But not volunteering a "yes, I'll help," just left a sad empty spot in my heart.

This time, I am putting my anxieties and feelings of fear on the top shelf and I am reaching out. It was scary to take the first step. So I prayed. It was terrifying to press that "send" button. So I asked for strength and courage. My head was filled with doubt and I had half convinced myself that "people wouldn't care." So I pleaded for a little bit of hope and faith. And then I closed my eyes, held my breath, and stepped off. I pushed that "send" button knowing that even if my appeal for help was turned down, the One up there was still going to love me. And you know what? My initiation was met with lovely real-life enthusiasm and heart. Whew, I could just hear my heart give way to a beautiful wash of relief.

That is what happened when I contacted The Giving Heart. I found them through WeAllSew.com and I noticed that they are located near to me in Richmond, Virginia. The Executive Director, Vicki, surprised me by responding to my emailed within an hour and asking me to give her a ring. I did promptly and was delighted to hear about her work, the group's wonderful mission, and success stories.

Located near Richmond, Virginia, The Giving Heart is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing food, fellowship, and living essentials to those in need. The elderly, homeless, and families who have come upon hard times, are welcomed by the generosity of more than 500 volunteers who run the Annual Thanksgiving Feast, which feeds the bodies and souls of more than 3000 guests. The all-volunteer-staff also lead their Giving Bag and Got You Covered programs. To date, more than 4,000 needy individuals and families have received Giving Bags made of reusable materials and filled with toiletries, diapers, non-perishable food items, blankets, and hats, scarves and mittens. And over 400 individuals have been given clothing, including professional attire, through the Got You Covered program.

Vicki told me their aim is to create a strong, loving community that supports one another. The Thanksgiving Feast, held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, attracts the largest volunteer waiting list! She told me they have more who wish to volunteer than capacity. I said, "its time to grow!"

She went on to describe some of the families who attend year after year. "We don't put labels on people. All are welcome to gather and celebrate with us." She mentioned there are families that come annually. The younger children make placemats and help set tables. When they are older, they get to be servers and then become Youth Ambassadors. She says, “there is something for everyone. And we are glad to welcome all who wish to come.”

So you ask, how can I help? What does crafting have to do with a The Giving Heart's Thanksgiving Feast? It has everything to do with it!

I personally, am gathering, creating, and giving reusable bags for their Giving Bag program. Do you have a reusable bag you'd like to donate? Can you sew a sturdy cloth tote to carry the essentials they give out at their event? I am asking everyone I know for help. These donations don't require a lot of cash, or maybe any at all. Maybe you have some duck cloth in your stash, enough left over to bang out a quick tote bag. Maybe you have a friend who loves to sew and would like to help. Maybe you have an extra cloth grocery tote you'd like to give to someone in need. If you can help let me know! (abbieipark(at)gmail(dot)com is a great way to contact me. Or find me on FaceBook or Twitter.) No donation is too small. Send me one bag. Send me many. Your gift is needed. And your time is appreciated by the hands and the heart that receives your bag.

If you don't sew, but you are in love with yarn, The Giving Heart also accepts hats, mittens, and scarves for men women and children. Winter is coming and they include these bits of love in the Giving Bags too.

If you'd like to get involved in other ways, and they are glad to accept donations of a variety of items, visit their web page or call their offices at (804) 749-4726 for more information.
It is so difficult to get over that bump and move from being someone who wants to help, to someone who will help. 
But I believe in faith, hope and love.I love hearing the gratitude in someone's voice. I have faith that there are others out there like me, who want to help. And I have hope that they will take action and make a difference.

Knots of Love - Bringing Warmth, Comfort and Dignity to People Around the Globe

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I found this charity through the non-profit Knitting for Charity on Facebook.

Knots of Love logo 300x269 knots of love crochet charity
Knots of Love is based in Costa Mesa, California. Their mission is to gather the volunteer efforts of knitters and crocheters making caps to bring warmth, comfort, and dignity to individuals who have lost their hair. To date, they have donated more than 100,000 caps to men, women, and children undergoing Chemotherapy, burn victims, brain surgery patients, head trauma patients, and individuals with Alopecia. Knots of Love partners with more than 400+ treatment facilities across the country, Canada, Mexico and overseas to deliver these caps of care to those who need them. Visit their FaceBook page for more information and to listen to the video testimonials of patients, care takers, and donors this charity has touched.
How you can help right now? 
From first hand experience I know that charities benefit from cash donations.
But if you are like me and you just don't have a lot of cash, you can donate your time and talent...and maybe a small part of your yarn stash. 
So get out those needles and a bit of yarn and knit or crochet a cap to warm the head and heart of someone who needs your love. Please print and fill out this form to send in with your donation and be sure to check their How to Donate page and List of yarns for guidelines for specific guidelines before you start your project.

Not sure which design to knit or crochet? There are over 40 patterns with terrific photos and clear pattern instructions to get you started.

You can even save on postage by checking their site to see if there is a cap drop location in your neck of the woods. If you have questions, e-mail them at christine(at)knotsoflove(dot)org.

And finally, go visit Chase Banks' Giving page. Starting September 6th, 2012, you can vote for Knots of Love to win a share of $5 million dollars for charity that will go a long way in helping their efforts to support our communities.

Knitting to keep children warm around the world -- Wool Aid

Monday, August 20, 2012


My oh, my...this one really has my typing fingers a flyin' and my knitting fingers itchy to cast on again. (Really, one can't ever have too many projects-in-progress now can we?) I've been cruising around the Internet looking at this, searching for that...and this group, well, they aren't just up to date, they are updating as I read their page!! Wool Aid is their name. So far this year, this group of almost 1000 knitters has produced more than 2000 woolen pieces hats, mittens, scarves and sweaters to be donated to needy children living in cold climates around the globe. They aim to create and donate more than 3000 pieces in 2012!

Their website has great guidelines, easy patterns, and an address where to send knitted and monetary donations. 12 in 2012 is their current campaign with a 12/31/12 deadline (visit the site for more) and the organization accepts donations year round to help keep children warm.

Very cool, very inspiring, and all I can say is, wow...check this group out here. And for their very active Ravelry page, click here.

New beginnings and giving back

Friday, August 17, 2012

Knitting, knitting, knitting. At this moment, many of my needles hold projects in the making. I am working on a luxurious cashmere wrap for my mom for Christmas. Shhh, don't tell. It is a wonder to work with the ultra-soft yarn, but it is also a super duper simple pattern. Too simple if you ask me. It kind of puts me to sleep. I like something that exercises the brain. Math...oh, love math too. Hopefully this Christmas gift will make it in the mail this go around. (I purchased the kit of cashmere wool in time to make something for LAST Christmas, but somehow we didn't even have the time to cast on.) I hope that by starting before school starts, and that cool crisp-gotta get my knitting fingers in gear weather comes upon us, I might actually get to complete this project. Really now!

In other thoughts about giving back, knitting for charity, and the like, I found, via Facebook, this organization: KnittingforCharity.org. Has lots of information about different charities out there, free patterns for a variety of items, and lots of encouragement for the knitter wanting to donate his or her time to a good cause. They post national and local campaigns, and they get the word out year round. No seasonality here. (Just like knitting a cashmere wrap in the damp 103 degree Virginian heat of August.) The sites they link to are not always up-to-date...so contact the organizer before sending off your hard earned work.

Like I've said on my Giving Back page...these bits are primarily for me to keep track of where I've gone, and where I'm headed. I love crafting and creating of all sorts...and there are so many people out there who need the work of a solid seamstress. So if you are reading and you know of a charity that could use hand-made goods, knitted, crocheted, sewn, etc. Leave a comment! Thanks.
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