Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pocket Handkerchief Challenge From the United States Christian Commission

Challenging others to pass along encouragement.
     Vicki got into a sewing mood this spring.  She bought an assortment of cloth and began making what we call "Pocket Handkerchiefs", when sewn the squares of cloth measure about 12" x 12" or a little bigger. Over the years I've always found it helpful to have one in my pocket especially on hot days to wipe away the sweat.  From time to time she would invest the material & time in making up some that we would give away.  Sometimes we'd hand them out to a particular unit we knew, or we'd put them out at the tent on the gift table we always set up.
     In the early years I'd always carry one or two in my haversack when we'd go on the march or into battle and give them away at random.  I still smile at one time I offered the gift to a soldier.  It was a hot July day at a Gettysburg reenactment.  Our brigade was in reserve and we were soaking in the sun, sweat pouring off us, waiting to go in.  As I walked the line, I saw one gray haired soldier wiping the sweat from his brow as it literally ran off his face.  I reached into my haversack and pulled out a pocket handkerchief and said "Here soldier, use this, it's yours to keep."  He looked at me with a suspicious frown and mumbled "don't want it".  Before I could say something to assure him it really was an honest offer, one of the guys from my unit spoke up and said "It's OK.  He's the Christian Commission and they give stuff away for free.  Really, he does stuff like this all the time."  With that endorsement, the soldier accepted the gift with a smile and found some relief from the heat.
     Every time Vicki starts sewing the pocket handkerchiefs to give away, I think back to that suspicious soldier and his smile as he found relief from the heat.  Truly Vicki's work of searching for affordable deals on cloth, on cutting and sewing the gifts has blessed many a hot tired heart long after they walked away from our tent.
     This year I've decided to make a challenge to the troops as they pickup the handkerchiefs on the gift table.  I've pinned to each handkerchief a small note which says:  If this pocket handkerchief blesses you, then remember our Lord's words and pass along a blessing of your own to a fellow soldier who needs encouragement:  "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matt.25:40  The U.S. Christian Commission
     What each man or woman chooses to do in response to the challenge is up to them.  But I just want them to pause and think about how they could in turn pass along a blessing of encouragement to someone they know.  That would be a true "thank you" to Vicki for her labor of kindness.

     Handkerchief size?  We've been told various sizes.  One person insisted that the accurate size was 20"x20" or 24"x24" for bandanna types.  Ours are not based on an actual example we have.  To be honest, the size varies a bit depending on how many Vicki can best cut out of the width of the cloth and not waste material.  She also folds over the edges a couple of times and sews them, so a little width is lost there.  She mainly came up with the 12x12/ 14x14 finished size; small enough to fit in a pocket, economical enough to have enough to give away to as many soldiers as we can.  Somehow I don't think a Civil War soldier back in the 1860s would have said "hey, this isn't the right size ya'know" if someone was handing how the type Vicki makes at a hospital or encampment.
     Cloth resource suggestion:  This year, Vicki has been visiting the Good Will/ Salvation Army stores near us and looking for cloth to use for handkerchiefs, comfort bags, aprons etc.  She has found some good quality sheets made of cotton, both regular and a few fleece-type that are usable for the handkerchiefs.  So in the spirit of the USCC, she buys them, washes them and cuts them up to be used in her sewing projects to supplement the cloth she buys at the fabric store.