Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Piecing Together Community

Standing in front of the 17x20 inch friendship quilt, windmill blocks in gray, red and yellow; my husband says, “I am wondering if the names will last?” The names were of women I had built friendships with years ago; we all liked making quilts and collecting fabric. These women stitched together the blocks of this sweet little friendship quilt and signed their names. Whether or not the writing on the quilt fades, their names hold a precious place in my heart. This quilt is a reminder of the kinds of activities I found helpful in piecing together a community of friends.

My photo album has a page dedicated to this small group of ladies. There we sit, all but one, on the church pew in my little house in Antioch, CA. It brings a smile to my face. Where is Cathy B? It could be she is taking the photo. How sad that I didn’t think to trade places with her and get a photo with her in it. The quilt draped across us was the friendship quilt we pieced for Dori H.

Dori was wise; she chose a larger quilt for us to contribute to and it graced her bed for a number of years. We have all moved away from the Bay area. Cathy and I have reconnected in the past year since we live closer to one another now. She told me she still has her quilt, each block a bear, hanging on her guest room wall. Ladies, I think we need a reunion. Can we work on that?

Our fellowship was comprised of Cathy, Deena, Dori, Karen and myself. It seems we tried to meet once a month, and I only remember us gathering regularly just long enough for each of us to receive a quilt. At least I hope all of you got one. I am not sure whose idea it was, but I loved it! It was one of the ways I enjoy building friendships with girlfriends.

It wasn’t the first time I had a group of friends who gathered as such; it was like being in a club. When I was a child I loved the idea of having a club, so I started one; the old, abandoned chicken coop out in the woods at grandma and grandpa’s farm was the club house. Of course I was president of the club; I cast the deciding vote. It was short-lived, maybe because I wouldn’t allow anyone else to be president.

Growing up I left behind the club without purpose in the chicken coop (I know some of you are laughing) and started forming groups around shared interests. When I was in my 20s I found myself in a lonely place. So I invited all my new friends to gather with me once a month to do hand work and eat. Each month we took turns hosting and feeding the group. Each lady brought a project she was working on and we created while yakking it up. It was memorable for me. I loved those evenings of eating what someone else cooked, planning a special meal when I hosted, getting to know each other better and making progress on a project. It gave me a sense of belonging.

Another time the need for connection drove me to start a Bible study in my home. I looked forward to seeing everyone each week, breaking bread and encouraging one another in prayer. My friendships deepened. There were years of gathering with a few to do pen and ink or sorting photos and designing scrapbook pages.

It seems those lovely years went by so fast. There are times now when some fun idea for connecting begins to bud in my mind and quickly dies before bearing fruit in the struggle to find a slot on the calendar and squeezing it in. Yes, I still get together with others for fellowship, but so many don’t seem to have time to commit to a monthly gathering. It’s like we work, serve, sleep and start over. Making time for meaningful fellowship and having fun together seems nearly impossible these days. It’s sad. My life has be sweetened by these gatherings. Throughout the years I have had occasion to reconnect with women who were part of one of these groups and we always pick up where we left off.

There are times when each of us is presented a gift of spontaneity. For example, three women friends of mine were trying every which way to get together. One had to live out of a hotel while her home was being repaired. There were so many complications she couldn’t find a way to meet. So we decided to meet her at the hotel with picnic basket in tow. I purchased some delicious salad kits (as opposed to the not so delicious kind) and dark chocolate. I put it together in a picnic basket, along with my grandma’s depression ware plates. We had a lovely time on the lawn eating our picnic and visiting.

Working around such diverse schedules can be a challenge, but we have to think outside the box. What are some ways you have found for bringing friends together? How do you make meaningful connections when it seems no one has time? Not only do we need to take advantage of the moments presented to us, but maybe it is time we make more room in our schedules to build relationships. Really, everything we do for anyone is multiplied in worth by the time we have invested in building the relationship. What do you say, shall we try being with others more than doing for others?

P.S. Cathy is a superhero when it comes to quilting. When we first met she was working on this quilt. Cathy made this quilt completely by hand -- piecing and quilting. If I remember correctly, this was her ten year quilt. Thanks for the photos, Cathy.