They are ladies I haven’t even met in person, or that I’ve known for only a short time. Yet they are doing something very special for people who are very special to me. And that makes them saints and heroes in my book.

Late last year, a friend of mine told me about dresses that her sister makes out of pillowcases, and she asked if I would be interested in taking some of them with me on my next trip to Uganda. I immediately accepted her offer, as the dresses would be wonderful and welcome gifts for little girls in Uganda who are children of the young women I am working with – women who are now trapped in a cycle of poverty and prostitution, and who want a better life for themselves and especially for their children.

Not long ago, my friend told me that she also has an aunt who – along with a group of ladies from her church – would be happy to make dresses for our girls in Uganda. I haven’t met any of these women in person, and I’m looking forward to doing so at some point in the future. I’m also looking forward to the time when I will be able to show them photos of sweet and shy little children – smiling broadly, and proudly modeling what may well be the first new dresses they have ever worn, and their only clothing that isn’t ill-fitting or full of holes.

Another friend of mine recently introduced me to someone she described as “a retired nurse who loves to sew.” She, too, offered to make dresses – as well as shorts for the boys – and on the morning that she and I met for coffee so we could get acquainted and I could answer her questions, she brought a bag filled with colorful and adorable dresses she had already made.

“I used stretchable fabrics,” she told me, “and I made them all pullover dresses without buttons or zippers. I’m assuming the women wouldn’t have the tools or resources to fix buttons or zippers if they broke.”

This was true, although it was something that hadn’t occurred to me. I marveled as she described the different fabrics – all durable and easy-care – and pointed out one dress she was particularly proud of. It was made out of washable silk, and as she set the dress down on the table she sighed and said, “Because those girls deserve silk.”

It was all I could do to keep from crying or from throwing my arms around her in a big hug – because she was now giving a gift even more valuable than the clothing she was making. She was giving respect.

Since then, she has made many more dresses, she has offered to teach sewing to the girls in Uganda during a future trip, and she recently held a sewing class in her home for a Girl Scout troop that now plans to earn badges through projects that will help provide better lives for the women and children in Uganda.

I’m always amazed at how much can be accomplished when people use their gifts and talents to help others, and when they do it with respect, compassion, and generosity for people they don’t – or hardly – know. And I feel blessed to be a part of it.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on June 26, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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