I had coffee last weekend with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. We first met each other at a Toastmasters event years ago, and found we had a lot in common. We used to see each other pretty regularly, then our schedules, work and timetables shifted. We still touched base from time to time, but until last weekend I hadn’t seen her in ages.

You can probably guess how the next part of this goes. After a big hug and a little time spent trying to remember exactly when and where we last saw each other, we started talking – and didn’t stop. We picked up right where we left off – even if we didn’t know quite where that had been – and talked for over two hours without missing a beat. When we realized how much time had gone by and that we both needed to get going, we promised to see each other again soon. And I know we will. In fact, we’ve already made arrangements to get together again before Christmas.

That’s how it is with friends. And not only were we able to pick up and carry on easily and effortlessly, but we realized as we were talking that we have even more in common with each other than we did before. And as we filled each other in on what each of us has been doing since then, we discovered some powerful new “mom” connections between us – which is kind of ironic considering that we’re both empty nesters. My kids are in their mid-20s and have been out on their own for several years now. Her daughter is in college and no longer living at home.

One of the things my friend has been involved in during all the time I’ve known her is the Mother Bear Project, which sends handmade stuffed teddy bears – knitted or crocheted according to a specific pattern that assures consistency but allows room for personality and creativity – to children in Africa who have been orphaned or affected in other ways by AIDS/HIV.

In addition to knitting teddy bears herself, she has organized a number of events – for both students and adults – in which participants have learned about the Mother Bear Project and gotten together to knit, crochet, stuff the bears or put the finishing touches on them. This includes sewing on the smiles and fastening the red hearts that are an important part of each teddy bear that gets shipped to a child in desperate need of someone or something to love, hug, and hold on to.

While we were sipping our coffee, we also talked about my recent trip to Africa. She wanted to know all about it, and especially about the children. Since returning from Uganda, many of my conversations about the trip have focused on the children, and they are the subjects of some of my most heartwarming and heartbreaking stories and photos. I doubt if that comes as a surprise to anyone. Taking care of children is a pretty universal concern, and when they are sick, scared, abused or alone, it can bring out the maternal instinct in all of us. Whether or not we have kids of our own. And whether or not we’re even of the maternal gender. But even more so when we do, and we are.

I’m planning on going back to Uganda next year, and when I do, I will probably be taking some of my friend’s teddy bears with me. I can think of a number of places where there are children who need and deserve them. And she is already excited about providing them.

One of the other things we talked about was how, now that our own kids are pretty much grown and gone, we’ve got a whole world of other kids that we can take care of, and who desperately need us – or others – to do so. My friend thinks of herself as a global mom, and that’s a very good and accurate description of her. I want to be a member of her club, and I know we’re among a growing number of mothers, women, people, who want to make a difference in the world, and who realize it starts with taking care of the children. We’ve raised our own, and now we’re ready to keep it going.

You never know what can happen when friends and moms get together. And if you add a few hugs, a lot of heart, and perhaps a few cups of coffee, I’m pretty sure we can rock the world.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on December 8, 2011.
© Betty Liedtke, 2011