The lovely old library in Provo, Utah is a beautiful building, all worn old brick and shining burnished wood floors and hushed recesses filled with books and interesting ideas. But on a cold winter night just before last Christmas, a group of people gathered in a conference room lined with tables—not to read, but to tie quilts, weave mats, and sew stuffed animals, a gathering of young and younger, middle-aged, and even a few who were oldish, but mostly young at heart. In a room like this there is no lingering near the door, or sitting in the back—it is, instead, a place of joyful exuberance and enthusiasm as a group of passionate amateurs gathers to practice their talents—tying knots with yarn and conversation, stitching together both threads and hearts.
For Grace Garn, a 19-year-old college student, the event was one she had a particular interest in and helped to organize. A member of the presidency of the Provo student cottage of Big Ocean Women, Grace and the other cottage members wanted to get more people involved. “The cottage presidency sat down with Big Ocean leaders and discussed what we could do that would catch the attention of students in Provo. We talked about how most young women in Provo already have experience with sewing and quilting and that a joint service project with Stitching Hearts Worldwide would be the perfect event to publicize our cottage and do a lot of good at the same time.”
There is a moment after almost every international tragedy or natural disaster when people watching the news sit up and take notice, and think, “I wish I could help.” And then the moment moves on, as all moments do, fading into the business of the day, into the dishes that need to be done and the errands that need to be run, and the everyday patterns of a life, and although there might come another moment in the late afternoon as the sun slants into night that they look back on the day and find it is tinged with a sad yearning to connect and to serve, most of the time they think that there is not much they can do from the limitations of their ordinary lives. But Stitching Hearts Worldwide, an organization dedicated to providing meaningful humanitarian service, is working to provide opportunities to get involved in service, setting up events like the gathering held at the Provo Library to make and serve and connect with others.
After the Provo event, Grace said, “I was personally thrilled at how many young participants came! It was impressive to see college students who are already beyond busy take time out of their lives to help sew and quilt blankets and weave mats for refugees in distant countries. They also invited their friends to do the same, gathering more and more people to help serve. It reminded me why Big Ocean Women is such a successful organization. Women in my community have a desire to do good and are just waiting for opportunities to put their hands to work. Our event was simply a place to offer their skills. I think there is a distinct, tender spirit when people gather to help some they have never met.”
And it is this sense of service, this connection and communion with others that Stitching Hearts helps to foster. Krystie Wright, the founder of Stitching Hearts, works in conjunction with the Launfal Foundation, Lifting Hands International, The United Way, and other organizations to make tied quilts, plastic sleeping bag mats, pillows, backpacks for school children, hygiene kits, baby blankets, dolls and hand puppets, as well as educational games and toys. They focus on helping in communities such as Paradise, California which was decimated by fires in the last year, or among refugee communities. Their goal has been to make relief items that can be sent to people displaced from their homes because of fire, natural disasters, and political unrest around the world.
At the end of December’s event, as the students and families and friends headed out into the cold winter night, they left behind them not only a stack of newly tied blankets and lovingly stitched puppets, but also the hazy warm glow of time well spent, the small miracle of not so small moments, moments as small as the tiny stitches that bound together the fabric that would soon lie around the shoulders of a mother, across the bed of a child, and across the hearts of everyone involved.