Months ago, I wrote an entry dedicated to my good friend, my great Aunt Minnie. This semester, I'm taking public speaking. For our first speech, we had two options for a topic: "a tribute" or "I believe in _____". When I got the assignment, I knew what I wanted to do. So my speech, which I'll be giving tomorrow morning, is a tribute to Minnie. I can't say enough about how much I admire her. And now, for the speech:
How do you measure greatness?
How do you recognize nobility?
The great people – are they to be found only in the pages of great books with their deeds shining as brilliantly as their name in our hearts?
What of those simple, quiet examples whose works are never published, paraded, or sung about?
I’ve known Minnie for as long as I can remember. As a child, I knew her as the sweet, thin, old widow who drove around in an old, brown, granny-cruiser, who never missed a yard sale, whose gray hair always looked a bit wind-blown, and who always wore a smile.
As I grew into young adulthood, my handy-man tool-box filled up with skills and my ability to lift things became increasingly obvious. Every once in a while, I’d get an after-school phone call from Minnie, requesting a hand with something:
I moved furniture, hauled wood, reached items from high shelves, and did yard work. Minnie would put me to work and come back to check on me every so often. After a bit, she’d call me into her little house to take a break.
As I rested up, Minnie and I would visit. It was during these visits that I discovered what a vibrant gem my spry old widow friend was. She and I could talk about anything. I never felt criticized in her presence. I felt like Minnie was confident that I was capable of doing anything I chose to undertake.
As we chatted, Minnie’s hands were always busy. She was the queen of the crochet hook. Nobody could whip out such a neat stitch as quick as Minnie could.
One day, Minnie set her work down and started going through her basket. She fetched some skeins of yarn and a hook. She handed it to me! I was bewildered. “You ought to be doing something while we sit here and talk. We’re going to teach you how to crochet.”
Have you ever tried to say no to a sweet old lady?
Visit by visit, I began to learn the basic stitches I’d need to make just about anything.
A few months later, I had to learn how to quilt in my home-ec class.
Minnie caught wind of it. That Christmas, my gift from my dear friend was a small cardboard box full of fabric squares and a pattern for putting it all together.
I had no interest in taking up quilting as a hobby.
But my conscience and sincere care for my well-meaning friend got the better of me. I bit the bullet, swallowed my masculine teenage pride, and decided to make the quilt.
Now for a confession: to my great amazement, all those hours spent at the sewing machine grew on me. Sewing was a creative outlet that I found to be very calming. I don’t often broadcast it, but I’m the best male quilter I know.
Minnie’s calls for help came more often once she discovered my skills with a needle. More and more visits were spent around a quilting frame with a needle and thread and sore shoulders.
I came to find that Minnie was the most gifted, most giving, and most resourceful person I’d ever known. Her quilts and crochet projects went out tied in bundles as gifts for weddings, graduations, births, and all sorts of special occasions.
She was always busy with something.
Time wore on, and I left for Canada as a missionary. In the winter months, the Canadian kids wore some very cool crocheted touques.
(That’s Canadian for “beany”.)
I decided to try my hand at making one for myself. The skill I’d learned in Minnie’s parlor, and thought I’d never use, was very soon discovered by my fellow missionaries. I had requests to make touques for all the missionaries in my zone.
I came home from Canada to find that my friend had suffered a stroke and was living far away with her daughter’s family in California. She could no longer talk, but she could still write, listen, and crochet.
She couldn’t drive anymore. She knew I would need a car. The brown granny cruiser was given to me: a 1974 Dodge Dart that I drove to class this morning.
A few short months later, Minnie laid down her crochet hook for the last time. At her funeral, bins full of hand-crafted pot-holders were handed out. Each person left with a keepsake hand-made by Minnie.
In her storage were quilts, labeled for events yet to happen: the future wedding of a nephew or niece, the birth of a couple’s first child, …Minnie continues to give, years after her passing.
She was a person who was dealt a tough hand, but kept smiling through it all.
She was one who filled a need when she saw one.
She knew the meaning of using talents.
She wore out her own life in blessing the lives of those around her.
She never led a historical battle, cured a disease, or ruled a nation. But she touched countless lives in her own very simple, quiet way.
How many lives still feel the warmth of Minnie’s love?
What is greatness?
What is nobility?
I believe it is found in the person who uses their simple talents to the fullest to make life better for people around them.