LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I am Liane Hansen.
(Soundbite of This I Believe intro)
HANSEN: Over the past three years we've been asking listeners to submit essays to our series This I Believe. Among the more than 35,000 people who've accepted our invitation is today's essayist, Susan Cooke Kittredge. She's the senior minister at the Old Meeting House in East Montpelier Center, Vermont. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: As someone who talks about belief in her sermons every week, Susan Cooke Kittredge was challenged by the idea of identifying a single personal credo. But it came to her one day while she was engaged in a humble task. Here is Susan Cooke Kittredge with her essay for This I Believe.
Reverend SUSAN COOKE KITTREDGE (Old Meeting House Pastor): Like most women of her generation, my grandmother, whom I called Nonie, was an excellent seamstress. Born in 1879 in Galveston, Texas, she made most of her own clothes. Widowed at 43 and forced to count every penny, she sewed her three daughters' clothes and some of their children's as well.
I can knit, but I cannot sew new creations from tissue-paper patterns. Whenever I try, I break out in a sweat and tear the paper. It clearly requires more patience, more math, more exactitude than I am willing or capable of giving.
Recently, though, I have come to relish the moments when I sit down and somewhat clumsily repair a torn shirt, hem a skirt, patch a pair of jeans, and I realize that I believe in mending. The solace and comfort I feel when I pick up my needle and thread clearly exceeds the mere rescue of a piece of clothing. It is a time to stop, a time to quit running around trying to make figurative ends meet. It is a chance to sew actual rips together. I can't stop the war in Iraq. I can't reverse global warming. I can't solve the problems of my community or the world. But I can mend things at hand. I can darn a pair of socks.
Accomplishing small tasks, in this case saving something that might otherwise have been thrown away, is satisfying and perhaps even inspiring. Mending something is different from fixing it. Fixing it suggests that evidence of the problem will disappear. I see mending as a preservation of history and a proclamation of hope. When we mend broken relationships, we realize that we're better together than apart, and perhaps even stronger for the rip and the repair.
When Nonie was 78 and living alone in a small apartment in New Jersey, a man smashed the window of her bedroom where she lay sleeping and raped her. It was so horrific, as any rape is, that even in our pretty open, highly verbal family no one mentioned it. I didn't learn about it for almost five years. What I did notice, though, was that Nonie stopped sewing new clothes. All she did was to mend anything she could get her hands on as though she could somehow soothe the wound, piece back together her broken heart, soul and body by making sure nothing appeared unraveled or undone, as she had been.
Mending doesn't say this never happened. It says instead, as I believe the Christian cross does, something or someone was surely broken here, but with God's grace it will rise to new life. So too my old pajamas, the fence around the garden, the friendship torn by misunderstanding, a country being ripped apart by economic and social inequity, and a global divide of enormous proportions. They all need mending.
I'm starting with the pajamas.
ALLISON: Susan Cooke Kittredge with her essay for This I Believe. It is understandable that Cooke Kittredge might write an essay for radio. Her father was the well-known journalist and broadcaster Alistair Cooke, whose Letter from America was the longest running radio commentary series in history.
We hope you'll consider writing an essay for our series. You can find details and all the essays we've aired at NPR.org. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
HANSEN: Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory and Viki Merrick of the book This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.