Did you ever think about how best you can make a difference in the world? In our living rooms, most of us treat friends or family to the occasional rant. I found the rare public “bully pulpit” in a place I didn’t expect.
A while back, an editor in my community called me up and asked me why I wasn’t writing for him. I was stunned. As any writer will tell you, this hardly ever happens. The pay wasn’t much. I wasn’t even sure who would read my columns, but I took him up on the offer.
Writing for this smaller publication meant I could write about whatever was on my mind—and sometimes, it was funny, like when one of my three year old twins announced that he was going to have 18 children. They’d come from his belly, and that he would probably marry Mommy, Daddy, or his brother.
Once it was powerfully sad, when I’d discovered that there were elders in our area who could not get to an event or religious service because they didn’t drive—and no one would go out of their way to drive them there.
Sometimes, I struck a nerve. I made up a composite person, an average Joe, and wrote how he felt alienated and isolated—both at work, and in the community. To my surprise, many people approached me afterwards, and told me thank you. They knew how Joe felt. My column made them feel less alone.
When I wrote Knit Green, I wondered whether it would make a difference. Did knitters want to know about sustainability and eco-friendly yarn choices? Would it matter? It turns out that this is a huge issue, much bigger than I expected. While I aimed the book at knitters, it resonated more widely. Now, when someone at a party asks me what that book is about, I suggest that knowing where our yarn and clothes come from is a lot like how we choose organic food, or prioritize purchasing local produce. “So, it’s just for knitters?” the person might ask — with a sneer. “No,” I’d argue, looking pointedly at the person. “It’s for people who wear clothes.”
From the Outside In is about a Jewish community in Winnipeg, a city on the Canadian prairies. However, just like Knit Green, it isn’t only for knitters, it’s not just about one city, or one religious community. It’s about newcomers and families, fitting in and standing out (and of course, it includes references to fiber art, too!)…all the things we struggle with as we try to make a difference.
Long ago, I had a disagreement with someone with whom I’d grown up and dated. He felt one had to travel far away to make great change in the world. My view? You can make change anywhere, one person at a time, one action and one day at a time. He went off to China and Africa, and he’s likely made a big difference. I’m still working on the “one person at a time” model. I believe it’s a big world out there–with a need for multiple approaches, and for multiple people’s efforts.
Check out Joanne Seiff’s books online at Amazon. The digital version of From the Outside In is widely available: at iBooks, Nook, Scribd, Kobo and beyond. Follow Joanne’s adventures on her blog: Yarn Spinner.