By Allison Randall
A clipping of this article about Lois was given to her in 2009 with a note: “This story, Lois, is about a large impact your words had on me. It feels like a small thank-you to you. Much love, Allison”.
Many years ago, my main source of income was making cloth appliqued wall hangings. Many were landscapes, some scenes full of many different textures of cloth, sometimes subtle gradations of color, sometimes bright contrasts. I loved making these. I loved the feel of the various sorts of cloth; I delighted in the joy of choosing fabrics from my stash that spoke to one another. But I felt my choice of work wasn’t doing anything important for the world.
One day I was complaining to a Quaker woman [there is a hand written note with arrow pointing to these last two words, saying ‘This woman is you, Lois.’] whose primary vocation was peace work that I felt useless. Here she was doing all this good stuff to change the world, and what was I doing? Making beautiful things for people to hang on their walls. What use was that to the world? She looked at me tenderly (she who had bought several of my wall hangings) and said simply and sincerely, ‘People need flowers, Allison.’
Since she was (and is) a woman I admire greatly, her words stayed with me. I noticed that even more than before, as I worked on my wall hangings I imbued them with prayers for the people they would end up with.
Some years later I began making what I call Soothing Cloth Toys for Adults and Children: toys unlike any others I’ve seen, soft and velvety and filled with millet, which makes them flow gently in one’s moving fingers. As I began making them, remembering Lois’s words, I imagined how they would help people, comfort them, bring them joy. I designed little stars to hold in your hand and feel, to bring comfort and calm. And Hands To Hold, actual hand size (to hold when you need a hand to hold and no one is there), which drapes nicely in your hand and moves soothingly as you hold onto it. More and more toys followed as I sold at farmers’ markets and got more ideas from my own inspirations and the inspirations of children and adults who saw my work.
Selling these things at the farmers’ market was ideal, because many customers came by week by week, and gave me feedback on what they had bought from me. They told me their tales, sometimes tearfully, of the good the toys did for them or people they loved. People who were lonely, or had cancer, or were going through tough times. I came to realize that making toys was Good Work indeed, and I wondered how much of it was the toys themselves and how much was the prayers I put into them as I made them with love.
I still don’t know the answer to that wondering, and I’ve been making the toys for a very long time now. But I do know that the answer Lois gave me so many years ago, ‘People need flowers,’ inspired me, spoke truth to me, and that ever since I have been able to clearly see the deeper spiritual value in my work, and in other people’s ‘flowers’ too.”
Originally published in ‘What Canst Thou Say?’, November 2009, Number 64, p.2. Reprinted by permission.