Sometimes all it takes is saying "yes" to an email and suddenly you find yourself volunteering to help pull off a major production. And when you're done, you're like, that was amazing.
A few weeks ago a woman from my L.A. Church of Craft forum posted that she was looking for volunteers to host a craft table at holiday party for several hundred kids and moms from various homeless shelters around the city. It was hosted by St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Studio City, a church I had been to once before for a Christmas Eve service and twice for Little Monster Market shows (blogged here and here) last year. Since it's close, I figured, why not? and volunteered to teach the recycled holiday ornament workshop I taught at last year's Felt Club and published as a tutorial in the Felt Club 2006 holiday program.
If you want to learn how to make these, there's a tutorial for it in the current issue #09 of Craft: magazine that my fellow Felt Clubber Cathy Calahan wrote. Why didn't I think of that? Silly me keeps showing people how to do it for free. Oh well, I didn't invent it. Years ago I saw a Christmas tree adorned with these in Savannah and came home and turned all our wedding cards into a mobile of geodesic balls. Ever since then it's been my go-to craft for the holiday season.
So this Saturday I got up bright and early and loaded with supplies I'd purchased that week, headed to the event. I also brought along the fixins for a candy cane reindeer craft, which I taught to another volunteer who later taught it to all the kids. (All those years of being a teacher has left me with projects to spare.)
The recycled holiday ornament craft is, I quickly realized, not for little ones. All the circle cutting, triangle folding, and gluing requires patience and a little skill.
Luckily, it was mostly tween and teenage girls and their moms and grandmas who were drawn to my table. A few of them joked with me that they didn't know what they were getting into when they sat down, but before too long, the pieces would merge into something beautiful and I could tell they were proud of what they had created. One mom remarked, "It's kind of like everything we do in life, isn't it? It's a labor of love." Indeed. Here's what some of them came up with:
Other craft tables had face painting, knitting, Santa letter writing (using up the envelopes left over from all our cards) and gingerbread house making.
There was even a hand massage table for the moms.
There were games outside, carolers inside, food and sweets galore, and the kids each got a gift bag full of brand new clothes. When the crafting wrapped up, I was sent to "Elf Training" and helped distribute these gifts to the kids.
I drove home exhausted, but uplifted in ways I didn't expect I would be. Before I got there, I worried that I wouldn't have much to talk about with the moms, but when I was there our conversations were like any I'd have with a group of crafters or moms at the playground. I thought, somewhat naiively, that I'd feel sorry for the kids. Instead, I was blown away by their enthusiasm and genuine gratitude when they were given something, or created something new and beautiful.
So that's what I realized the other day -- that you can make happiness happen by giving something, or creating something new and beautiful for someone else. Eventually, someone might even do it for you too.