Knitting for civil discourse in Congress, and a story
Monday January 31st 2011, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Politics,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

Does anyone else find themselves wishing they could knit hats for everybody in Egypt? I wish and hope the best for them and thank them for their peaceful efforts; they are representing themselves well to the world. I’m holding my breath and fervently hoping they’ll get to do so in their government too.

We are so blessed.

Here at home, there is now a Ravelry group at for the campaign to knit hats for our Congresspeople and there will be a Facebook group soon.  If anyone feels so inclined, please, feel free, spread the word on your blog or your knitting group or wherever. If you knit a hat for your congressperson, please shoot an email to Ellen, here if you would; we’re hoping for Feb. 28th as a deadline to get them all shipped by, en masse would be great but if you want to sooner, more power to you. Sending it to your representative’s local office works well, in person even better; the whole idea is to make it feel as personal as possible to them.

Those who tell Ellen so she can put it on her spreadsheet, by whatever moniker you want for yourself there, will be the ones I’ll be able to know about for sure: because when this is all done, I told her that as my thank you I’d like to draw a name and send out an autographed copy of “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls” to that knitter, wishing I could do it for everybody. I know, I don’t need to bribe anybody, so many people are already simply diving in and doing this without feeling the need to tell about it, but I’d like to be able to do something by way of thanks to those who do.

Ellen and I talked on the phone tonight, and someone she knew had gone from, I could never knit for…!, to, I need to knit for them. Don’t I. Yes.

And so I told her the story of a nursing assistant in the hospital during my first severe Crohn’s flare in ’03 who was just an angry person, consistently and bewilderingly mean to her patients–just angry. I wondered why on earth, at that time of all times, I had to be stuck dealing with her. Her accent was thick, my brain equally so in my illness on top of my hearing loss; we were not a good match.

And then a few days into this I found myself wondering what it must be like to be her. Or what got her that way.  What is it like at home for her? Where is her family, what are they like?

That stopped me, and I said a prayer for her: not completely willingly, and apologizing to God for that, but this much at least I could try to do. Please bless her? (So I don’t have to?)

The next time she walked in my hospital room, though, what happened was definitely not sweetness and light: I beat her to it and immediately snapped at her. The one time she had done nothing to deserve it, I just didn’t want her in my room just then, I’d had enough.

And she, instead of yelling back or defending herself, suddenly looked deeply sad. She spun on her heel and was gone.

I felt TERRIBLE. That was so not what I had prayed for, my stars!

The next time she walked in the room it was by coincidence a step behind when her boss did, a nurse who was one of my favorites, and I grabbed my chance: I said to the woman, in front of her boss, “Thank you.”

(Say what?! on her face.)

“You came in here and I snapped your head off and you were kind to me. I did not deserve that. Thank you.” Because I knew that for her, that was the best she could have done and she did it.

After she left I said to her boss, “I’m so glad I got to say that to her in front of you.”

And the boss, a dear woman, answered with a glance to the door to make sure we were alone, “Me too!”

That nursing assistant completely changed. The next time she came in I honestly didn’t recognize her, her face was so different. She looked radiant! She had finally seen herself through someone else’s eyes in a better light.

I later knitted a lace stole in the boss’s favorite color and several more things for quite a few more people there; and I knitted a hat in case I might see that nursing assistant, whose name I never did know–she’d tended to keep her badge turned over, I always guessed so that people wouldn’t be able to complain about her by name.

I didn’t see her but she saw me down the hall when I came back for that visit. She ran down the hall and she *threw* her arms around me with great emotion. She had no idea yet about the hat. No language barriers. Friends, in the deepest sense of the word; she wept, and I knew then that what I had done had meant everything to her.

I said to Ellen, Now, can you imagine if I had NOT made her anything while I was handing out my handknits? Thank heavens I did. Thank heavens I knit that hat.

Ellen said, “It made all the difference to you, too, then, didn’t it?”

Oh you bet. Oh, honey. It was one of the most important things I ever made.

8 Comments so far
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I love Parker’s wise little old man face. I can tell by looking at him that he still remembers things that most of us have forgotten.

Great post (as usual).

Comment by Lynn 02.01.11 @ 4:02 am

you have once again reminded us that we should try to “walk a mile in some one else’s moccasins” before we speak

(and I’m sure there was a prayer in each knitted stitch when you made that hat!!)

Comment by Bev 02.01.11 @ 9:00 am

A simple act of kindness, sometimes so difficult to express, can truly make all the difference in a person’s day/life. Your story proves that.

Comment by Julie 02.01.11 @ 9:16 am

That is a fantastic story about Miss “Meanie” nurse. You certainly do have a way to touch people in ways they never forget.

Comment by Don Meyer 02.01.11 @ 10:22 am

Alison, since many people share representatives, and these Congresspeople can afford the fashion they require, maybe you’ll want to consider sending head hugging caps they can give to a constituent undergoing chemo who maybe can’t afford a cap because they have inadequate insurance. This is one I’m admiring

It might be too politically loaded for your tastes, but if you’re mainly sending a political message and if the caps are going to be rehomed, this may encourage more empathy and also prove useful. Just throwin’ it out there.

Comment by LynnM 02.01.11 @ 10:23 am

Okay. I didn’t knit on the plane, but I will knit!! Beautiful story. Kindness can change the world.

Comment by Channon 02.01.11 @ 12:31 pm

I’m glad you retold that story on your blog, Alison, as much for others to hear it as to get to hear it again myself.

And for LynnM, in our details on the WHNHH effort on the Rav group, we note that some may wish to photograph their hat and send the photo with a note that it was donated to a worthy cause in their Congressperson’s honor. We do believe actually sending the hat has a better chance of making an impact, but we honor that everyone comes at this effort from different perspectives and values. If you’d like to do this with a chemo cap, please let me know and I’ll add your hat to the tracker. Thanks for caring!

Comment by twinsetellen 02.02.11 @ 6:40 am

That’s the cool thing about forgiving, it goes both directions. Sometimes it is so difficult to forgive yourself. It takes some of that salve applied by someone else to make it possible.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 02.02.11 @ 11:50 am

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