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Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Garden

Today I walked out my front door to the quiet that only Sunday morning guarantees. I was on my way to the community garden I joined last summer. The street was sunny and silent. Most people were still sleeping or just opting for a slower pace. The only movement on my block was from a few houses down. My neighbor Jean was standing in her driveway. I said hello and we chit-chatted for a few minutes. I don’t see her very often and I asked how she was doing. She’s seventy or seventy-five and had heart surgery a few years ago. She said she is mostly fine and I thought she looked and sounded well. I reminded her that we’re just a stone’s throw away and to call if she needs anything. We said goodbye and I continued my walk.

A short time later my phone rang. It was Jean and she made an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said she had some stuff in her garage that she was never going to use. She thought I might be into crafts and wondered if I wanted to come over and get some fabric she’d bought when she still sewed. Did I want fabric? Do fish like water? Heck, YES!
Jean has lived in her house for forty or fifty years. Like most of us, she has some stuff in her garage. Not a crazy amount, really, for having been there so long. But she’s ready to part with things she no longer uses and I was thrilled to help take the unused fabric off her hands! We looked at some of the fabric together and I knew I’d love to have some of it but wouldn’t use it all. Certain colors or prints didn’t appeal to me but I had an idea. I asked Jean if she’d be interested in my donating the fabric I didn’t plan to use. When I learned to use my sewing machine I took a free class through the community college’s continuing education department. In the corner of the sewing room was a table with free pieces of fabric on it. People brought stuff in that was no longer needed. It was like the penny plate you see near cash registers. Take one if you need it or leave one for the next customer. A simple gesture of goodwill. (Hey, the world has plenty of strife and we should appreciate small acts of kindness when they come our way, and then pay them forward.)

After thanking Jean again and again, I brought two big boxes of fabric home. Giddily, I sorted through the stash and squealed with joy over some of the pieces. Some I would not use, and they went into a huge plastic bag that I can bring to the sewing room next week. But I want to keep some pieces and I’m excited to find a project for each one. There are all kinds of fabrics and a number of them may have been sitting in Jean’s garage for several decades. There are patterns from the 1960s! There is stretchy fabric for ‘70s pantsuits. Pieces of lime and tangerine chiffon. The boxes are time capsules and I’m having a blast!

Today’s fabric buffet gives me a picture into Jean’s world, too. Seeing which hobbies a person chooses, and what’s in her garage is like a sociology study. Fascinating! Today’s surprise gift makes me feel happy about being a good neighbor and having friendly neighbors, too. Neighbors help you out when there’s a problem. You lend neighbors tools. They give you fruit from their trees. You pick up their mail when they’re away. In a world in which we’re more self-sufficient than in the past, small acts of neighborly kindness are happy reminders that while we may not need neighbors in the way people once did, we still benefit from being a nearby friend, and from having people who want to help us, too. Two boxes of fabric have brought me some happiness and have cleared a small area in Jean’s garage. It doesn’t have to be a big thing that brings people together. We are social beings and we are happier when we have contact with others. So go on, love thy neighbor! You’ll get something from it, too.

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