71: Blankets of Love

71: Blankets of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Blankets of Love

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little — do what you can.

~Sydney Smith

A sick child in a bed that dwarfs her. A soft, cuddly blanket, purple, her favorite color. Clearly not hospital-issue. She smiles when I give it to her, though she doesn’t know me. She tells me about her dog, Moose, and how she can’t wait to get home and play with him.

I used to see stories on TV or in the newspaper about people who fed starving children, clothed the needy or took care of the elderly, and I always felt a twinge of guilt. I wanted to be like that, helping others. But I was busy raising two kids and working a stressful job. I never got enough sleep and by the time I fed my family supper, my energy gauge would be hovering on empty. There was no extra time.

So I settled for contributing to good causes and delivering canned goods and old coats for local drives, along with the occasional present for a needy person selected from a Christmas tree at the mall. I thought this would set a good example for my kids. Then I read a magazine article about a different type of organization.

Project Linus is comprised of volunteers who provide new, handmade blankets for children who have traumatic illnesses or injuries. The article touched me, and I knew this was something I could do. I might not have a lot of money, but I could sew and I could crochet. I searched online for a local chapter.

My heart sank. There was no local chapter in the Tennessee area where I live. The nearest one was in Atlanta, about 120 miles away.

I could not stop thinking about these children. Over the next few weeks I reread the article and looked at the pictures of children wrapped in brightly colored blankets. In the midst of their pain, they smiled. Their sweet faces tugged at my heart and I knew I had to find a way to help them. But I am shy by nature and I couldn’t step out on my own. My wish to volunteer seemed hopeless.

I decided to call the chapter in Atlanta. Perhaps they had a hub closer to me or another way I could send blankets to them.

“Why don’t you start your own chapter?” the lady on the line asked.

I couldn’t do that! Just the thought of reaching out to strangers frightened me. But the lady in Atlanta was encouraging and I spent the next day or two mulling it over. I reviewed Project Linus’s website several times and read how to apply to be a Chapter Coordinator.

I could just make a few blankets myself and not involve anyone else.

Encouraged by the thought, I sent in my application. A week later a package arrived, and I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning. I spread the contents out on my table and read all the instructions and suggestions. I had done it! I was now a Project Linus Chapter Coordinator.

Once my application was approved, Project Linus added my Chapter to its website. In a matter of days I had received several phone calls from other people in my community who were interested in making blankets. I quickly realized I would not have to do this alone.

It began small. I contacted the oncology department at our local children’s hospital and the nurse who answered said they would love to receive blankets for the children. Encouraged, I made blankets and picked up blankets, sewed on Project Linus tags, and delivered them.

A local television reporter spoke with his neighbor who had a child in the hospital. The neighbor told the reporter about the quilted blanket his daughter had received in the hospital and how she carried it with her everywhere. The reporter called me and asked to do a story about Project Linus for their weekly “Friday’s Hero” segment. I was flabbergasted!

Since then, our chapter has grown to the point it can now provide hundreds of blankets to several local hospitals.

You would think bringing a moment or two of happiness to a sick child would be reward enough, but the satisfaction volunteers derive goes so much deeper. In addition to nursing home residents, some of the ladies and men who make blankets are homebound or bedridden after surgery and have a need to feel useful.

I thought volunteer work was about giving, but now I see it is a two-way street. Those who make blankets become part of something greater than themselves. They find a new circle of like-minded people. A Project Linus volunteer discovers joy in knowing that a blanket made by his or her own hands can make a seriously ill child smile.

Giving enlarges our hearts and fills us with a sense of purpose and a reason for being. There is no greater joy.

~Linda L. Peters

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