This morning, Hadrian and I made our way to West Chicago to help out at an event called New Life for Old Bags. This monthly volunteer-run gathering facilitates the transformation of old plastic grocery bags into colorful and comfortable sleeping mats for the homeless. The bags are first flattened and cut into strips. The strips are then looped into plarn and rolled into balls. The "skilled ones" then crochet the plarn into mats that are as beautiful as they are useful.
The vibe is cheerful and friendly, what I would imagine a quilting circle might be like. The tasks vary in difficulty, allowing those of all ages and experience to participate. I inserted myself into a group of elderly ladies (asking first for permission to photograph their hands, and second for guidance in my crocheting) who said they work on their mats at home, constantly turning out projects for donation.
There are 135,000 homeless in Chicago and one-third are children. One woman we met today said she knows a family who sleeps in a different spot every night, rotating among thirty-six locations to avoid trouble. I like to take pride in my balanced lifestyle, my attention to detail, etc. But today, I was reminded that a fundamental reason I am able to do this at all is because I have a home. I can't begin to imagine what my life would look like if I had to rotate it around and around the city every month. One night here, one night there.
It is both heartening and humbling to spend time among those who make solving the problem of homelessness a priority. We plan to show our faces here more often.
Photo of my hands taken by Hadrian.