Unexpected gifts give unexpected energy to the receiver. A few years back, a gift certificate to my favorite independent bookstore arrived in the mail. I had no idea who had sent it. When I went to the store to browse, I asked the owner who it was from. She just shook her head and told me that the giver wanted to remain anonymous. Well, who am I supposed to thank? I asked. She smiled and said, everyone! Treat everyone like the giver.
Anonymous gifts of knitting spread love and beauty into the world and there are many stories of knitters providing chemo hats, shawls, baby blankets and all sorts of beautiful handmade knitted items to all kinds of organizations but one knitter’s mittens really struck home. This knitter made mittens and left them in impoverished areas of the city. She spent hours crafting the most intricate and beautiful designs for the adult mittens and warm fuzzy bright colored mittens for children. She would encase them in a clear plastic bag and nail them to trees or duct tape the bag to a park bench with a note asking who ever found it to consider the mittens a gift.
I met a woman at our food pantry who had found a pair of gift mittens. Even though it was cold, she wasn’t wearing them. She had them in her purse, still in the bag. She took them out to show me like she was a museum docent showing me an item from her most prized collection. She marveled at the intricacies of the pattern and since she knew I was a knitter, she asked me “do you know how to this?” I told her I knew how to do the colorwork but I was in awe of intricacies of the pattern and the hundreds of tiny stitches that made up the mitten. They were exquisite. Do you think I was meant to find them? She asked. You found them, didn’t you? I replied.
I saw the woman a few times more times that winter. On a cold day in March, I asked her about the mittens. She took them out of her purse. They were still in the original plastic bag. I asked her why she wasn’t wearing them. She told me they were too nice to wear but they had provided her with something greater than warmth. They had given her hope. She realized that there were people in the world who were willing to give of themselves without receiving anything in return. This realization had allowed her to reach out for help. She was able to make herself vulnerable. Help was given to me, she told me and now I can move forward. I noticed she didn’t pick up any food but just moved through the line of waiting people saying hi, offering up a smile and a handshake. When we were cleaning up, I found a dirty white envelope. It was full of cash with a note that said “Whoever finds this, consider it a gift.”
We love because he first loved us.
1John 4:19 NRSV
Rows 8-16 of pattern #26 from the Japanese Stitch Bible