Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.
I decided to go do my “reverse panhandling” at Starbucks in River Forest as it is a favorite haunt for both my husband John and myself. In the evenings it quiets down, making it a nice place to read or write. Tonight I found out it’s also a nice place for a gathering of women who share a common hobby: knitting.
This Starbucks has a cozy corner tucked in the back away from the fray. A coffee table sits on a worn Persian rug and is surrounded by three burnt orange wingback chairs. Most people covet this prime real estate, myself being one of them. When I arrived, I headed back there immediately, only to find one chair taken by a studious young man reading a Bible. A silver-haired woman sits knitting in another. The third chair holds a wicker basket stuffed with yarn.
I eyed the chair and the woman eyes me. These are the words in the cartoon balloons floating over our heads.
“You’re not taking that chair!”
“I don’t want that chair!”
“Yes you do, and you can’t have it!”
I really don’t want the chair, and besides, it’s pretty obvious she’s holding it for someone. What I am thinking is,“Hmmm, is she the one? I don’t know. She’s guarding that chair like a pit bull.” She really is a bit intimidating. Maybe I better approach the Bible reader instead. I mean, what could go wrong there? A Bible reader is bound to be interested in the YOG project.
Trying to make up my mind, I once again eye the Bible reader, the chair, and the woman.
The woman eyes me back. I think I detect a certain fierceness in the click of her knitting needles. Suitably daunted and uncertain about bothering the young man, I decide to wander the length of Starbucks looking for someone else to draw my attention. But I don’t want to leave my Asus unattended, so I return to home base—a table just outside the coveted cozy corner.
Well, I have two reasons for finally deciding to approach the silver-haired knitter. One, I could’ve wasted all night looking for the right recipient. Two, I’m overcome with an unreasonable need to reassure her I don’t want her chair! I don’t steal parking spots either!
“Hello, excuse me,” I begin timidly, “is someone sitting here?”
“No, but they will be in less than fifteen minutes,”comes her firm reply.
“Oh, that’s ok, I don’t want the chair,” I swear, barely resisting the temptation to finish with “cross my heart and hope to die.” She explains she meets here weekly with a group of women friends numbering from six to fifteen. They gathered to knit, share knitting patterns and shoot the breeze.
Then I ask her if she’d be willing to hear about a project that might interest her. I’m starting to think that’s not the best pick-up line because it seems to arouse suspicion when my goal is to inspire generosity. I would probably feel the same way. Whoever approaches somebody with the sole purpose of giving away money? My assumption would be this project is probably going to cost me something.
She is gracious, though, and allows me to tell her about Reed and the Year of Giving blog. When I finish, she tells me she’s struck by the notion anyone would be interested in what she was going to do with the money. It seems odd to her. She’s also adamant she doesn’t want to be involved in something she has to perpetuate, as if it were a “living chain letter” of sorts. I assure her this is not the case.
She’s clearly ambivalent, and I don’t want her to feel pressured. I’m on the verge of trying to find a graceful way to bow out when another member of the group shows up.
“Glenyss! We have a project to consider,” she says, gesturing to me. “This is right up your alley.”
Glenyss pulls up a chair and listens while I explained it again. The silver-haired knitter is right. It is right up her alley.
“Oh sure, we can take the money. We can find a charitable knitting project and use the ten to buy the yarn for it.”
I actually have a friend who is involved in “competitive knitting” but I’d never heard the phrase “charitable knitting.” I ask Glenyss to tell me more and she explained she’s been involved in a number of charitable knitting projects, both personally and through her church. For instance, in 2008 Iowa was flooded for the entire month of June. Her church knitted caps and mittens because, “no-one was thinking about winter coming, when they’d discovered they’d lost the caps and mittens in the flood.” So this way, they would be prepared. How wonderful it must have been for those families to have one less thing to worry about during that difficult time!
A few more women show up, including Marion, for whom the chair had been reserved (she tells me with a pat to the bum “I have no padding so I need a soft chair”). The other is Lori. Lori wants to hear about the project too. The project brought a big smile to her face, and I sense I have finally made the sale (boy, whoever thought you’d have to go to so much effort to SELL ten dollars?).
“So, shall I give you the ten dollars,” I ask the group of four knitters.
“Sure, we’ll take it,” Glenyss speaks for the group, reaching her hand out for the money.
The silver-haired knitter—whose name I finally learned was Debbie—doesn’t want her picture on the web, so I suggest they display their knitting projects and I will take a picture of their work.
What you’re looking at here is beautiful sweater for a young child, a gorgeous woman’s white cardigan and the start of a knapsack. Debbie is making it. It brought back a bittersweet memory for me. My grandmother had once made me a knitted knapsack that I adored. I loved it because it was cool and reminded me of her. Then, my apartment was robbed and only two items were taken—a ring which cost five dollars, and the knapsack. It’s been over twenty years and I still miss it!
Thanking them for their time, I return to my little writing post. The group has grown from four to nine while I write this. I overhear conversations about knitting quickly give way to more personal stories interspersed with jokes, laughter and the occasional display of a project for the generous admiration of all. Their words knit one, pearl two a soft, warm shawl of goodwill and friendship around them which spills out to wrap around me as well.
As the evening draws to a close the women start to leave, one by one. A few wish me goodnight and good luck with my project and I’m tempted to say, “It’s your project, too.” But that’s not for me to decide. They have the ten-dollar bill. What they do with it is up to them. Still, I’d like to think it has added a unique stitch to their evening. I hope it won’t get dropped.