Gathering Wool

Happy Monday. I woke up early this morning to drive my parents to the airport. They flew in last Wednesday evening for a five-day visit. It has been good to have them here, and I tried to show them as much of Maryland’s beauty as possible. Some Target folks were happy to meet them in the office on Friday. I was sad to watch Mom and Dad as they passed through the security line at BWI. They are among the small handful of people I always watch until I can no longer see them. Luckily, I’ll see them again in Kansas later this week.

We attended the Maryland Wool and Sheep Festival at the Howard County Fairgrounds on Saturday. I have shared in lectures that my life has been lived to the soundtrack of the clicking of knitting needles. Mom loves wool and knitting, and the festival is an event she has been looking forward to for some time. The event catalog arrived on Thursday evening, and as we shared a meal, she pored over the details, vendors, and event map. Bright and early on Saturday morning, we headed south on Highway 97, filled with excitement.

The festival was everything she’d hoped for. Rows of vendors selling every possible wool-related product under the sun. Barns full of sheep, breeds I had not previously known to exist. Much like when I take Olivia shopping, there were benches full of husbands patiently waiting. Now and again, Dad and I were called to offer an opinion…mostly Dad. He has occupied the position of knitting consultant for what I imagine is all 50 years of their marriage. Coincidentally the festival was celebrating its 50th year of operation, and T-shirts and hats commemorating the anniversary were purchased. I picked a hat with the head of a ram…because, you know, RAM-sey. Plans are already being made to attend the 51st annual festival next year.

As a former 4-Her, I am familiar with events featuring livestock and the products yielded from animal production. I was touched by a young man leading a large-horned ram between the livestock buildings. The dads were getting lambs on fitting tables in preparation for their children’s turn in the ring. I enjoyed hearing the familiar sounds of the judges announcing their reasons for each contestant’s placement in a class and the corresponding ribbons. I was happy not to endure the physical discomfort of the showing of sheep this Saturday. My heart was particularly warmed in observing a young man call to an older 4-Her as she groomed a lamb nearby. The boy hollered, “Hey, Annabelle,” and gave an enthusiastic wave. The young lady waved back and gave a smile that might last all week. As the boy walked along, he said to his mother, “That’s Annabelle; she is in my club,” beaming with validation. Annabelle may not understand the kind of impact her smile and wave bestowed. I thought back on the feelings I experienced when an older member of my own club gave me a few moments of their attention.

In addition to a life full of 4-H and wool, I am an avid people watcher. I attend various festivals related to music, and people-watching is one of my favorite pastimes. Observations from this event included attendees of all ages but skewed towards an older crowd. Themes included very comfortable footwear; Brooks running shoes, Birkenstocks, and funky boots were in solid representations. The T-shirts were great. “I knit so I don’t unravel” was my favorite. Equally as declarative were the tote bags. Every possible pun related to knitting adorned the sides of canvas bags bulging with newly acquired yarn and wool.

There is something about a group of people gathered around a passion. The energy is noticeable. A level of self-consciousness erodes when we engage with others who share a similar spark. C.S. Lewis wrote about friendship as a relationship lived shoulder-to-shoulder. Two or more individuals are focused on the same interest, pursuing what brings them joy.

This is a good analogy for the people I work with at Target. Colleagues stand side-by-side, working towards a common goal in developing life and the passions of those we serve. This is one of life’s great gifts. To engage nearly every day with work that brings joy and fulfillment. Almost every day is a festival celebrating the lives of those we serve and those we serve alongside.