It was the summer before 4th grade that I went to a day camp in which I was forced to learn how to cross-stitch. From what I could remember, I didn’t really want to cross-stitch. Actually, I though that knitting or crochet would be much more practical. Also, I couldn’t think of a single time in my life I would ever need the skill of cross-stitching. Cross-stitch is a thankless endeavor. Don’t get me wrong. I have seen beautiful heirloom quality creations with cross-stitch. I just wasn’t planning on making something colorful to hang on the wall, or some fancy pillow for one of my siblings. My younger brother was much too smelly for that, and as luck would have it contracted head lice at the beginning of that school year, anyway. I am pretty sure that my mom burned all of his bedding and shaved off most of his hair as a result.
But there we were, my campmates and I forced to take up needle and thread and all follow the same pattern each day for the 5 days of our day camp. There were groans each afternoon. Needle pokes. Unintended knots. Bleeding. Muttering.
All that pressure got you down
Has your head spinning all around
Feel the rhythm, check the rhyme
Come on along and have a real good time
Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, Chic
Each day, I carefully followed the pattern in which we were to spell out the words “Empowered to Love”. By the end of Wednesday, I was on the ‘w’ thinking that I would never be able to finish by the end of the camp. I had done the math. 5 letters in 3 days. So I asked to stay a few minutes extra to finish a couple more letters. It was the first time I remember setting goals and rationing my work as to finish before a certain time.
I remember my grandmother being there that Wednesday waiting for me and talking to the teacher. I can’t remember what she said exactly, probably something to the effect of “He is quite a stitcher.” My grandmother just smiled at me.
When we got in the car I asked her if I could ask her a question. “What does ’empowered’ mean?”, I asked. She told me that it means that you are “able to”. That you are “filled with power” and she gave me this analogy. The car we were riding in. The tank of this car is filled with gas and the gasoline gives the car the power to move us from place to place.
On Thursday, a few more. On Friday, I completed the whole word ‘Love’, much to the needling and prodding of my other campmates. Pun intended. They were saying stuff like “You are a girl.” or “Sandy Seamstress” or some other needless adolescent chiding. Little punks.
Anyway. On Friday, I looked around and none of my other campmates had finished. There were probably 25 of them. I was the only one. The teacher trimmed the edges of my creation and stuck it in a little frame and I got to take my framed creation home intact. The other kids got to take home pieces and a pattern and the urging to finish what they started.
It was years later when we cleaned out my grandmother’s apartment after she passed away and I found this little framed cross-stitch. I started thinking about one of the final days that we sat in that apartment together and I sewed a button back on her nightshirt.
I believe that we are all empowered to do great things. Many never realize this. They sit in the shadows and fail to embrace what they could become. For some, empowerment is a little flower waiting to blossom. For others, it is a raging fire that cannot be extinguished.
Only you can decide where you are along that road and if you are going to let old habits die. But I will tell you this. I see you come in and work hard every day. There is fire in the elite. You are the elite.