12 November 2013

The Ripple Effect

"Imagine what our real neighborhoods would look like if each of us offered,
as a matter of course, just a kind word to another person.
There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage.
Sometimes all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person.
Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone.
One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many."
~Fred Rogers

My friend Kim Stevens of Picking Poppies is an amazing photographer with a poet's soul. I am not quite sure how we found each other, but I am so glad that we did! She regularly posts her beautiful images, spurred by a love of nature and every day life, along with beautiful posts. Today she wrote about being grateful.

Of course, this is the month of outwardly showing our gratitude. I have seen posts on Facebook showing something that the writer is grateful for each day. Those are the kind of posts that I wish there were more of on Facebook. Miss Kim wrote that she had a challenge and to hop over to a collaborative blog that she is part of called Focusing on Life to read more.

Her challenge is precipitated by the Mister Rogers' quote above.

Such a lovely and simply thought. The best ideas always are.

On Sunday, November 10th I was invited, as part of my ongoing relationship with Halcraft USA and the Bead Gallery line, to be a resident 'expert' at the local Michaels store as part of their first ever nationwide 'Pinterest Party'. Since I am likely one of the most frequent customers that the Plover Michaels has, it would be no problem for me to spend a little extra time in the store on a Sunday afternoon, even if I were going to miss the entire Packer game (which was a good thing I missed anyway as I understand it was a train wreck!). Of course, this was a 'volunteer opportunity' that would take me out of my studio for the day, but hopefully put me within arms reach of someone who could benefit from my knowledge.

I didn't know what to expect. The staff at Michaels didn't know what to expect, either. They were not given much direction from their corporate office other than the signage inviting people to "Don't Just Pin It, Make it!" I hope that if Michaels does this again, they might have a bit more information to offer, and specific projects, or an invitation to print off your favorite Pin and bring it in for assistance in making the project or tailoring it to your own tastes. It would have been great if there had been a WiFi connection in the store as I brought my laptop in case anyone wanted to take a look at Pinterest. And it would be awesome if there were 'experts' in all the different types of crafts (i.e., papercrafting, framing, kids crafts, holidays, beading, etc) that would be there to help. But of course, I have to remember that this was a 'volunteer opportunity' and that I don't work for the local Michaels, so that is just my own two cents.

The manager at the local store mentioned to two elderly ladies who regularly take the same jewelry technique classes over and over again (as they forget that they did!) that they were going to have an 'expert' in jewelry available. They were so very impressed and swore not to miss it, plus it was during the day since they don't drive at night.

Right on cue, at 1:00 pm, they showed up in the classroom, eager to learn. They brought their boxes and bins with the projects they were working on.

They introduced themselves as Georgiann and Mary Lou. They lived at the same assisted living center. Miss Geogiann had on a gorgeous retro multi-layered necklace that set off her striking white hair. Miss Mary Lou had had a stroke and so she had limited use of her hands, but she had a vibrant personality. They were both so eager to learn and to have the satisfaction of finishing their projects. They thought that I had flown in from some far off place ;-) and were surprised to learn that I only came from over the hill and two miles away!

Miss Georgiann was working on a blue and green multiple strand necklace with swarovski crystals, acrylic bling balls and lampwork along with a large turquoise colored stone as the focal. She was patterning her color scheme and the multiple strands after one of the examples hanging in the store. What I appreciated so much about her project was that she was truly making it her own, rather than struggling to make it exactly like the store model. She kept asking for approval of how it was looking, and I assured her that it was wonderful. I could tell that she had a plan, and that she had a definite sense of style. I simply nudged her in the right direction.

Miss Mary Lou had strung two sets of black beads alternating with the clear glass spacers that were on the cards into a long necklace that she was making as a gift for her mother. She had very precisely strung the alternating pattern and just didn't know how to finish it. And she wanted to make some earrings to match.

So we went off to the bead aisle to see what we could find.

I imagine that the bead aisle can be a bit daunting to someone new. I had to think back to when I started, not knowing what all the different components were used for, what the difference was between all the metals, not having a clue as to which tools that I needed to complete the work. I take for granted that I know all of these things today. And I am grateful for those along the way who answered my questions and showed me by their examples.

Once we had our supplies, we set to work to learn some skills, starting with crimping. We practiced crimping on some scrap wire. My preference is to use the two-step crimp pliers for a more polished look, but that was almost impossible for these sweet ladies to get the hang of, so we just went with the smooshing technique (why yes, that is a technique!) using the best grip you can get on the needlenose pliers. Not the finish that I would do, but certainly a confidence builder for these ladies.

I forget the things that seem obvious to me are not so commonplace to novices. Like the fact that you need to thread the wire with your crimp tube, through your clasp and back through the crimp tube in order to secure the clasp. We had a few hilarious moments when I kept popping off the top of the tiny vials of crimp tubes only to send that stopper flying through the air and the crimp beads rolling off the table and onto the floor! But actually seeing how to finish the ends of their necklaces led to such an immense sense of accomplishment for these two ladies. This information was like gold to them.

When it came to working with making loops in headpins with beads on them, that is a whole different set of skills. And tools. But Miss Mary Lou was very eager to learn, even though I knew that it would be a challenge for her and she likely didn't have the right tools at home. We made many practice runs on the head pins they had in the classroom, instead of ruining her more expensive sterling silver heart end head pins. Getting the knack of a simple loop should be simple, right? But I personally find them hard to make consistent and so it was with Miss Mary Lou. Eventually I showed her how I make a wrapped loop and she liked that look better. We ended up making a pretty little pair of dangle earrings to match, and she did the wire wrapping herself. You should have heard her ooh and aah!

I regret that I didn't take a picture of their finished projects. I could tell they were very proud of them.

When they were done, I started my own shopping for a holiday project for Michaels that I was assigned (heads up... there is a fashion shoot being done in NYC of my holiday tablescape pieces from this year and last! I can't wait to share that with you!). I was surprised to see Miss Mary Lou come around the corner looking for me.

While Miss Georgiann was in the car waiting, she wanted to seek me out to say thank you. And in her hand was $15. She tried to press that into my palm saying that they wanted to pay me for taking the time to work with them. I assured her that was not necessary. I told her that they were my 'something good' that day and it had been a true pleasure to be with them and share some of my 'secrets'. I told her to take that money and buy more beads so that they could make more pretty things! She truly couldn't believe that I was doing that! It was so sweet.

Meet my new friends, Miss Georgiann and Miss Mary Lou
I am sure that I gave these ladies an overload of information. Miss Georgiann kept telling Miss Mary Lou that she had to remember it for the both of them! I kept trying to tailor it to their level, their experience and their abilities. It might not have been how I would have finished them, but that is not the point. They successfully completed their projects and you could tell they were overjoyed by that. But in the end I think that I gained the most. Their smiles and enthusiasm were all the thanks that I needed.

And the ripple effect goes on.

What ripple effect can you start today?



LisaS said...

And you there great lady, are one to send good ripples all over the universe!

Best to you always ;)

Kim Stevens said...

Miss Erin, you send ripples without even trying. You have the kindest heart, a beautiful soul and immeasurable creativity that inspires. I can only imagine the joy that you brought to these ladies. It only takes one drop of water to create a ripple effect.

Thank you so much for your kind words...I am thankful to call you a friend!! xo

Marcie Abney Carroll said...

You never know when or how you'll be given the opportunity to touch someone's life, I'm sure these ladies will never forget your generosity.

koko said...

It sounds like these ladies made your day, and the ripple effect extends further, as you've made mine! Thank you for sharing, both with your ladies and your story!

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely lovely story Miss Erin (and one that I think your two ladies will also be telling people!). It made me smile, reading it! Thanks for sharing it with us!

Courtney Breul said...

What a wonderful post this morning! You are such a gift, to everyone.

Diane (Dewdrop Designs) said...

Thank you so much for writing this story for us. I teared up thinking about these two lovely ladies getting so excited about their projects. I, too, wish that you had taken pictures of their pieces, but very glad that you took a picture with them.

Off the Beadin' Path said...

What a heart-warming experience for each of you beautiful ladies!! A little personal interest goes a long way, doesn't it! And you're a natural in that whole area of encouraging others to do better and meet their challenges! You're all an inspiration in your own way! Thanks for this very special "something good"!

PA said...

What a lovely story you tell and what a lovely thing you did. This made me smile and also tear up. We never know when what seems such a simple thing to us can have so much meaning for someone else. Sometimes we get feedback like you did from these sweet ladies; sometimes you truly don't have a clue you've done or said something important to someone. But that's ok - that's not what the ripple thing is about. Thanks for inspiring me to try to do and say more kind things as I go about my life.

Ann Schroeder said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it.

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

That was beautiful. I cried.

love, jean xox


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