It is a simple word, one that comes from the Latin meaning to grow. It is something we all do every single day and yet, most of us claim not be its adjective form. Nevertheless, in spite of our most fervent protestations, we are exactly that which we would claim not to be.
The word is “create” and simply by being alive, we “grow” a life each and every day. I remember the first time I had someone ask if I was an artist. Now, quite honestly, my stick figures are pretty cute but an artist? Me? “Of course not!” was my response. I was eight at the time and fondly recall the papers the teacher had passed out upon which we had been instructed to draw eight lines. There were no other instructions and so no two people had a page that looked exactly the same. The teacher then explained we were all artists with our drawings of eight lines, many in different colors, and most going different directions.
I am not exactly sure who came up with the design for notebook paper but I rather doubt anyone ever looks at a page of lines, usually twenty-eight to thirty-two and considers themselves looking at a work of art. We tend to discount art that is utilitarian. Perhaps that is why we seldom consider our coverlets works of art instead of just warm blankets.
June 1, 1954 was the day that the world met Linus Van Pelt, an adorable blanket-carrying toddler character created by Charles Schultz for his comic strip “Peanuts”. In 1993 an equally adorable blonde-haired little girl named Laura was diagnosed with cancer and began an intensive two-year therapy of treatments which often made her ill. She entered the hospital each time carrying her own blanket, a soft bit of security to ease the pain of the side effects of the harsh but effective medications.
In 1995 a woman who had just learned to crochet read an article about Laura and her blanket. It was Christmas Eve and the article appeared in the “Joy to the World” section of the newspaper’s Parade Magazine, written by Pulitzer Prize winner and photojournalist Eddie Adams. The woman’s name was Karen Loucks-Baker and she decided to make blankets for children at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centre. She named her efforts “Project Linus”. By September 2009, over three hundred thousand blankets had been donated across the U.S.A. to children undergoing difficult situations, especially to pediatric cancer patients and there are chapter worldwide donating blankets to children in need.
In the state of Washington lives another artist, a writer. Writing had been a childhood dream, an usual dream for a child who was always in the lowest reading group in school. The road her dream would take her was rocky and took a full five years to see any real progress. Like most artists, though, she continued on and today Debbie Macomber is a New York Times bestselling author with over one hundred and seventy million copies of her books in print worldwide.
Debbie Macomber is less well-known for her fiber arts. She learned to knit at a rather early age but never really considered herself an artist whenever she completed a blanket. Although she has supported many great causes and projects, her Blossom Street series of ten books illustrates one of her favorite – The Linus Project.
Debbie Macomber is a great example, as is Karen Loucks-Baker, of how ordinary things, ordinary creative outlets can make us all humanitarians. With a crochet hook or two knitting needles and the knowledge of just one stitch on either, an ordinary person can turn a skein of yarn into a security blanket that gives a child comfort and hope and lets a family know they are not alone. By casting on one hundred stitches to one hundred and fifty stitches and then simply crocheting or knitting a rectangle or square, you can make a blanket of love for a child undergoing some harsh situations.
We all create our lives every day. It is up to us to create something precious or to decide to throw the gift of an hour in the gutter. Even if needle arts are not your specialty, there is something you can do to help another being. Animal shelters can always use blankets and it can be as simple as cutting two- foot by three-foot rectangles out of flannel, fringing the ends and then tying two rectangle pieces together. (Send me a comment if you want illustrated directions or either type of blanket!)
We all can do something for another person. That is all a humanitarian is. By doing this, we live out our faith and manifest our beliefs. It is just that simple, just that easy to create and grow a blessing for not only another but for ourselves.