This is not the post I thought I was going to write. I had something in the works last week to update what I have been up to all summer. But then the protests in Charlottesville, VA happened. And our current president’s words took the wind out of my sails. I am deflated and with a loss of hope.
It’s like this cotton thread my puppy Fiona got yesterday. A tangled mess. She loves to chew cardboard and although I try to keep it away from her, she is a sneaky 10 month old pup. I found the cone destroyed and the cotton discarded under my bed this morning. I could just toss it. Give up. The value is little, the amount of thread is small. And yet, I love the bright green color. It is often the perfect shade to stitch my textile tree art with. I’m not sure if this is the best use of my time, but I am hopeful it won’t take long to untangle.
Today I read the despair and anger in my Facebook feed. I know my friends are hurting, feeling unsafe, unsure who to trust. Do they wonder if they can trust me? What can I do to help fix this? Today I have feelings of hopelessness. I feel almost like giving up.
In June I spent a week teaching art during “PEACE CAMP”. A friend reached out to me to see if I was interested and available to participate in a program coming to our community to promote peace and nonviolence through a children’s camp. I jumped on the opportunity. Little Friends for Peace has been working for over 35 years to “disarm violence with empathy”. They travel around the country teaching children ages 4-14 listening and empathy skills. The children learn about other races, religions and cultures, with invited guests coming in each morning to share their stories of their beliefs and of the places they lived in as children. This is an effective way to eliminate fears and misunderstanding of others. It was such a joy to work with the kids to create a Pieced Peace Quilt in the art sessions. The quilt made of salvaged denim and the kids imaginations will hang in our community as a continuing reminder that we must unite to create peace on earth. This gives me hope.
Over the summer I also taught at other art camp programs both through the Oak Park Education Foundation and the Oak Park Art League. The OPEF Base Camp provided me the opportunity to teach 3rd – 5th grade students how to create their own “Story Quilt”. As the first step in the “design process” I assigned the students the task of pretending to be journalists and to interview another student. Through this they were able to quickly learn things about the kids they didn’t know and find things in common within the group. It gave me much hope to observe the children sharing their personal stories, listening and supporting each other as they learned new skills like fabric dying and hand stitching.
I do not share these stories of what I did this summer to give myself a pat on the back, that I should be congratulated for doing my good deeds. No, I share them to try to pass on a little of the hope I am still trying to hold on to, too. I also need to document the “good” I see and am a part of to bring me out of the despair I am feeling today.
And so, like Elizabeth Warren, I persist. I do not get angry, violent or punitive with Fiona for causing the tangled web. She doesn’t really know any better. When she knows better, she will do better. And that is how I see it. I must keep sharing my message of hope, and nonviolence. When others know better, they too will do better. In the meantime I will do what is within my capabilities to fix the mess I see. And I hope that like the “butterfly effect” the small ways I can help create peace and nonviolence will ripple out into the world. My now neat and tidy hank of green embroidery thread is a reminder to me that we can each do something everyday day to repair the wrongs of our past and do our best to fix things for the future. This is the little thread of hope I choose to hold on to.