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Home : Community : Newsletters & Stories

Newsletters & Stories

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Making the World a Beautiful Place: A Thank You

It was the little girl in her miniature hospital bed who turned my focus away from the story I was reading to knitting. An ancient-faced toddler. Her hair brittle. Her pale skin papery thin.

November 14, 2007. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic's library. I had been invited there to do a reading and an activity for Children’s Book Week. For the hospital's youngest patients.

Readings and visits to schools, libraries or anywhere kids are, is what children's book authors do. It's what I do. What I have done for over 20 years. But never before at hospital. And never with really sick children.

We stalled bit in the hallway. First carefully examining an exhibit of butterflies executed in a variety of media. The checking out a legion of highly individualistic sock monkeys on view in the glass windows of the offices lining the opposite wall. A hospital fundraising effort.

Baby Blocks Throw

Baby Blocks Throw

Winding our way into the library, my arms laden with books and Peggy lugging a huge plastic container filled with supplies, we were greeted by the librarian. I scoped out a reading spot, and organized a display of my books. Peggy found the work tables and unloaded materials.

Eve and Smithy: an Iowa Tale. One of my early picture books.

"On the corner of Dodge and Dubuque, past four cornfields, seventeen pigs, and a university, is Eve's house," I began, opening the book so all could see the pictures.

Maybe it was a squeaky wheel. Or the slight flutter of the page that caused me to look up. To see the little girl in her miniature hospital bed. Her young aide wheeled her closer in. Neatly covering her bed was a small afghan. Knit in baby pinks and blues, variegated with white, green and yellow. Colors that make me think about babies and the joy that always surrounds their presence.

I kept on reading. Showing the pictures, turning the pages. But my mind was on that afghan, knowing scattered among the beds and wards and clinics of the vast University of Iowa Hospital complex were more afghans, and preemie hats, and chemo hats and healing shawls and mounds of items crafted by scores of capable hands. Years of reading and writing about knitting has given me a peek at the edges of the enormous expanse of these kind-hearted labors.

The pastel hand-knit afghan on a very sick child's bed started me thinking if a pattern for healing and for hope and for peace could be written, and sent out to the universe of those generous folks who ply their needles to aid unknown souls, baskets and trunks, cars and trucks would be soon be filled. With healing and hope and peace. In a room of sick children, on a gray November day, that image filled me with a great sense of joy. In the presence of such a spirit of giving, the world is indeed a beautiful place.

When Barbara Cooney's legendary character Miss Rumphuis is a small child, she tells her grandfather, "When I grow up, I too will go to far way places, and when I grow old, I too will live by the sea."

Her grandfather reminds her of the third thing she must do. Something to make the world more beautiful. Like bringing comfort to the sick. Stitch by stitch.

Make a difference. Looking for an organization to donate your handicrafts to? Here are a few:

  • The Preemie Project. This month's featured charity donates baby items to families at the University of Iowa Hospital. Find out more about what they do at their website.
  • The Red Scarf Project. The Orphan Foundation of America sends care packages to foster teens all over America. Show them you care by sending a scarf. Get more information at their website.
  • Warm Up America Foundation. Michelle wrote about Warm Up America several months ago. Knit or crochet squares, sew them up with some friends, and donate them locally. To learn more, visit their website.

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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