Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Uniting a Nation Through a Wonderful Idea

Six months ago I was having a trying day but received a message from an Internet friend, Kay Meadors, which altered my day, and my goals as a knitter.

Kay wrote:
"I just had the most wonderful idea! We need to start a shawl and try to get knitters from all the 50 states to knit a section of it and send it to the next state. Wouldn't that be fun?"

That was September 6, 2008. Between that day and the next I count 21 email messages that flew back and forth between us. On September 7th I suggested auctioning the shawl, a project we'd already dubbed the Sisterhood of the Traveling Shawl, off to raise funds for breast cancer research through the Susan G Komen Foundation.

By then Kay had a friend, Jackie, in Oregon on board and I was emailing Merideth in New Mexico to see if she was interested in participating. We were already knitting together a community that would grow into a group that would create friends and excitement across the nation.

Women from all walks of life have participated in the the Traveling Shawl's progress. Librarians, software programmers, ministers, professional knitters, accountants, and stay-at-home moms have all taken a few days out of their busy schedules to knit six rows of intricate lace. Now as a farmer in Oklahoma I will be adding my part. Each knitter is asked to write a short entry into a journal that travels with the shawl. Many have contributed photos and blog entries detailing the time they spent knitting this project. Most of the women have dedicated their stitches to friends or family members who have been diagnosed with cancer and some of the women are cancer survivors themselves.

Thus far the shawl is just past its halfway point. My friend Kay hasn't seen the shawl since she cast on the first stitches of the project and knit the first few rows. On March 21st I will be lucky enough to meet Kay in Ft Smith, Arkansas, a town conveinently located between our homes, and show her the shawl that began as a "wonderful idea" just six months ago.

While the shawl is small compared to the huge fundraising efforts that large companies and professional philantropists conduct, I am quite pleased with the Traveling Shawl and the effect it has had on the people who've encountered it. Knitting is a meditative act for me so next week I'll add my stitches and focus on the people in my life and the lives of my loved ones who have battled cancer of all types. A simple act of pulling yarn through a loop can unite people in a cause, and the Traveling Shawl is a great example of how it happens.

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