There is something about a beautiful finished quilt that draws people, running their fingers along the edges of the pattern, the stitching and appliqué. That was what happened this year at the Chocolate Festival in West Plains. Every year in January Christos House sends their advocates and dedicated volunteer supporters out to collect items for baskets to auction, donations, gift cards and sponsors. Texas and Wright counties each have several businesses, civic organizations, churches and individuals who are loyal to support this annual fundraiser. This year was no exception. The Ozark Patchwork Peddler donated a round robin quilt for a raffle. As each one came through the door, I could tell that the ones who were drawn to the quilt to buy a chance on taking it home were fellow quilter/artisans who realized the work required to bring about such satisfying results and those who just appreciated the overall beauty of it.
One of the few requirements of making this quilt was that you had to use quality yard goods such as the Peddler keeps in stock. Twelve quilters from the Cabool area participated in the project over a twelve-month period. There were rules in the creating of it about commitment and timing but nothing to restrict the artistic endeavor toward its final creation. Each quilter was given the evolving delight with the bright tulip basket gracing the center to add the next row of blocks.
As I sat at the welcome booth and greeted all who came by to purchase a raffle ticket, I thought of how the project, gradually in the hands of these seasoned artisans took beautiful shape and became an inspiration to all who stopped to gaze upon it of what can come from community – each one’s talents and vision in adding their particular touch. It reminded me of an old folk tale titled “Stone Soup”. The story took place in an area where there were small villages filled with interesting people like all of us in a time when a great war had just come to a close and the soldiers were coming home. In this particular village, it was decided at town council that they would tell the soldiers as they went door to door for food that this was a poor village and that no one had any food to share. They reasoned that they were not about to be decimated by vagabonds passing through their village looking for a handout. This worked for a long time until one day a soldier who came through understood their plight and offered to make soup for everyone in the village square like he had helped other villages along his journey home. Everyone drew in as he took a rounded smooth stone from his pocket and asked for a large cauldron to be filled with water and hung over the blazing fire. This was going to be an amazing event – soup from a stone!
As the water began to bubble and steam around the stone sitting on the bottom, the soldier remarked how good it was getting but how much better it could be with some carrots. After a long silence, one of the villagers commented that they thought they had a few extra carrots under a quilt in their larder they could contribute. As the carrots began to cook and everyone could smell the difference they had made the soldier suggested that the stone soup could be even better with onions. This too, was brought forth by another villager and dropped into the soup at the “ooohs” and “aaahs” of everyone. As each ingredient was added even down to the lamb and pork soup bones, the stone soup became a savory delight as everyone gathered around the bubbling cauldron in the town square enjoying the company of each other, and happy to be a part of this unbelievable event – soup from a stone!
When everyone had their fill enjoying what they had helped to create, they observed the soldier removing the smooth round stone from the pot, wiping it off and putting it back into his pocket. A great cheer went up as he left the village for the experience they had all shared and the lesson they had learned – that together we can do great things with small personal contributions.
The quilt raffle ticket was drawn at the end of the Festival and even though you didn’t have to be present to win, the young gentleman who had purchased the winning ticket and had stayed for the three survivor stories and the entire auction stood up as his number was read. Later, he told me that the quilt reminded him of his grandmother and that he was glad to have won it. As he heard the story of how it was created by the twelve quilters over twelve months with no pattern or shared concept of the end result, he was even more impressed.
The difference between the stone soup story and the round robin quilt is that the villagers unlike the quilters, were unwilling, unknowing participants but I will always hope that in every community if someone comes forward with the “stone”, there will always be a few with “carrots and onions” under a larder quilt who are willing to share in order to be a part of something greater than themselves.
As Jesus’ disciples looked out upon the thousands who had gathered on the Judean hillside without thought of their physical comforts, they fretted about how they would feed them. A boy within earshot of the conversation stepped up with his small basket of bread and fish. From this act of generosity, Jesus blessed the minuscule offering and all were fed that day with food to spare.
Imagine the difference it would make in our communities, if we gathered in the square with no one excluded in the faith that as each one gave what they could from a heart of generosity, be it onions, carrots, bread, fish or even a stone there would always be enough with some to spare.