“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

Mason-Dixon Mailbag

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Dear Kay,
Just had to share this letter from reader Sue Smith, which illustrates the mighty power of the ballband dishcloth–that most humble of patterns, the pattern that has been around for ages, putting sponges out of business. I know a ballband dishcloth has extraordinary absorptive powers, but I didn’t know it could do this:

Hi Ann,
I just had to tell you what just happened to me thanks to ballband washcloths.
I live in NJ, & the only place I can find the Peaches & Creme yarn is in Wal-mart, so whenever I see one I stop to find more colors. That is the only reason I was in that particular Wal-mart in Rockaway, NJ today. On our way out of the parking lot I noticed a van all the way in the back, with the doors open & a dog on a leash sitting outside the van. With my second look, because I love animals, I saw a sign on the van’s window saying “family stranded, no money, need help”. I told my husband to turn the car around, got out, & asked what happened. That poor family was driving back from vacation on the way home which is Florida, & their old van broke down. It took all their money to fix it & they had none for gas & tolls to get home. I gave them $20, but could not just leave. We went back into the store, bought 2 cases of water & boxes of food & of course, dog food, plus gave them $60. They were so thankful because there were also 3 kids with them, that the husband hugged me & cried. We went to drive off again, & I made my husband turn around again, I couldn’t get them halfway home, I had to give them an even $200, which should pay for gas back to Florida.
We have been very blessed in our lives & it gave me such a good feeling to help these people who aren’t as blessed as we are. I just had to write you because if it wasn’t for those dishcloths, I wouldn’t have been there to help these people.
Sue

Of course, I’m joking about the ballband dishcloth’s awesome power. But I’m not joking when I say that Sue’s willingness to help, snipsnap just like that, is so inspiring. Such a great story–thanks, Sue, for telling us about your experience.
Love,
Ann

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Wow thank you for such an inspiring story, reminding us all to look for opportunities to serve. God does work in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. Why would anyone make snarky comments on this blog when this illustrates the good works which have been done? The mind boggles . . . . . .

  2. *sniffle*
    That family is so lucky to have found you.

  3. ~snif~ What a woman that Sue is! I know the power of knitting, but that just restores my faith in humanity. Way to go Sue! It comes back to ya!

  4. That is such a great story! In this day, so many of us just turn away when we see a need like that.
    I’ll bet Sue was blessed in many ways for helping this family. And they will never forget her!

  5. Thank God for Sue and her open heart.

  6. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again;
    Knitters kick ass.

  7. Wow, Sue, what a wonderful warm feeling I just got…

  8. Hmmm. Let’s pause…
    Saving humanity one family at a time.
    Making Soap Stars one man at a time.
    The way we are going…we’ll have Global Warming licked in no time.
    Seriously.
    We.Can.Do.This.

  9. Thanks for sharing that inspiring story. It truly warmed my heart. Coincidentally, just this morning I downloaded a copy of EP’s ballband dishcloth (only Sugar and Cream available here).

  10. Thanks for sharing that inspiring story. It truly warmed my heart. Coincidentally, just this morning I downloaded a copy of EP’s ballband dishcloth (only Sugar and Cream available here).

  11. Wow. Way to go Sue! There but for the grace of God… We should all help out whenever we can.

  12. Sue, you rock. We need more people like you.
    Please, please have lots of children, or educate lots of other people’s children. Humanity needs all the help it can get!

  13. This is one of the oldest scams there is. My brother’s a cop – you wouldn’t believe some of the garbage he’s seen people do for money. Even men can cry at will. Some people are so scummy they teach their kids to live this way. I’m sorry she fell for this.

  14. Sue, you are a force unto yourself, with folks like you, good is done in this world. Huge hugs for you, gal.
    I have to say, I’ve sent my first ever ballband washcloth to live in Bloomfield, NJ, because, as my dear friend says, northerners don’t do dishcloths, they do sponges. I think she is a convert now though!

  15. What an uplifting story! But of course, we are not surprised. Knitters are some of the most generous people around.

  16. I am really torn by Mary’s post. There is a reason.
    When I worked out of an office building, I gave my last $5.00 to a man who seemed distraught (not nearly as much as the wonderful knitter above). A little down on his luck but clean and distraught. Bear in mind, I was one of those insane people who got to the office early and worked late so he got to me very early in the morning. I was even a little scared at first.
    It turned out to be a scam and I felt stupid at first. Then, I remembered my own checkered past. You know, he may have used the money on likker or drugs or food or a cab ride, but that doesn’t dim my own kindness. Nor, does it mean I am a fool.
    Sometimes, charity means taking people at their word. If these folks were so down on their luck that they needed to put a sign up (whether or not the circumstances were true), then, they needed the help. Maybe one of their children learned something (and not negatively). Maybe they were telling the truth. I have family members that were just that poor once. They would have been in that type of situation if they had broken down on their way home from a family visit.
    Anyway, I completely understand the need to assess the world and be on guard. Sometimes it is nice not to be.

  17. That is wonderful. I need to be more aware and willing to help like that. Go, Sue!!

  18. I completely agree with Ellen. Whether it was a scam or not, it does not diminish Sue’s wonderful generosity.

  19. This is just a wonderful story.
    I wish I had more to give more sometimes…but right now just getting those two dimes to meet are tough. I’m happy to hear about stories like this because it just makes me feel so good about this world.

  20. God bless you, Sue! Whether it was a true story or not, and it could very well be true, your generosity is awesome!
    Diane

  21. Knitting CAN change the world! Awesome story… thanks for passing it on…

  22. Great story – I agree with those who point out that the value of the deed is not diminished if it is a scam by the recipients of the largess. Even if it is a scam, they probably really do need the money & think their real story is not compelling enough. I truly feel that anyone who has the opportunity to make an honest living probably will & those who perpetrate these scams usually don’t have what is necessary to do so – either because of lack of education, a mental problem that keeps them from working or some other reason.

  23. Bless her heart. Sue’s good people.

  24. We never ever know how real the needs of people asking for help are. If we assume they are all lying or exagerating, we’ll never help anyone. Sometimes when we give, we are being taken advantage of, but even those who are doing that are living in conditions most of us can’t imagine.
    Poverty, loneliness and hurt are epidemic across our continent. Maybe if more of us were like Sue, kindness, generosity and love could become a better epidemic. And there would be more Dishcolths!) Thanks for the uplifting story.

  25. Raising children in the city (Chicago) I have had to teach them how to handle pan handlers. The stories are good. Sometimes you want to give money just for the creativity of the story!
    You have to learn how to read the message behind the words. We have several regulars who need just another “$7.00 for gas” or “$1.45 for the L” and the odd amounts don’t read right.
    If children and dogs are used as props, I call the police.
    First, think what you would do if stranded that far from home–I would contact the police who would put me in touch with social services, or go to a church of my denomination which would call my home church to check out my story.
    When the request seems true, offer to make a phone call to a relative. Offer to call social services. Contact the manager of the store of the lot they are sitting in.
    And, give generously to the social services that do help people in need. My kids know this and donate to a local shelter. They encourage people to contact the shelter. They also know to give a dollar then call the police if they feel in danger!
    And donate those dish cloths to the social service auctions!

  26. Raising children in the city (Chicago) I have had to teach them how to handle pan handlers. The stories are good. Sometimes you want to give money just for the creativity of the story!
    You have to learn how to read the message behind the words. We have several regulars who need just another “$7.00 for gas” or “$1.45 for the L” and the odd amounts don’t read right.
    If children and dogs are used as props, I call the police.
    First, think what you would do if stranded that far from home–I would contact the police who would put me in touch with social services, or go to a church of my denomination which would call my home church to check out my story.
    When the request seems true, offer to make a phone call to a relative. Offer to call social services. Contact the manager of the store of the lot they are sitting in.
    And, give generously to the social services that do help people in need. My kids know this and donate to a local shelter. They encourage people to contact the shelter. They also know to give a dollar then call the police if they feel in danger!
    And donate those dish cloths to the social service auctions!

  27. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. Good for you, Sue.
    Please don’t be disheartened by those who disagree. You were there, they were not.
    Thanks for sharing this story!

  28. I worked in a battered women’s shelter for three years. the standard of sorting went like this: unless you know that the story is a scam, assume that it is true. Better to be taken advantage of a time or several than to leave someone in danger. At the same time it doesn’t hurt to involve a church or a social services person and perhaps ask them to be the go between. There have been a few times that my life has been saved by the kindness of strangers. I haven’t forgotten and I also give, but carefully.

  29. What a wonderful, heartfelt person Sue is. I sincerely hope she was not drawn in by a scam. On the Snopes website there’s a page devoted to scams of this sort and at the bottom of the piece there are several suggestions of how to help people with little risk of monetary loss.
    Good on you Sue!
    http://www.snopes.com/crime/fraud/distress.asp

  30. As a child my famiy often had to rely on the kindness of strangers – often in the most dire circumstances. Taking charity is never easy, but it can be the difference between tragedy and security. Being callous and pessimistic to those with their hand out is a sign of being victim to the pessimism and and mistrust which has torn the fabric of our community. Yet despite my own past, I have no faith in panhandlers whatsoever and I rarely hand out to the guys on the street. What I do believe in is the goodness in my own heart and I give with discretion.
    I don’t care if this guy’s story was elevated or not, if you have 3 kids and a dog then you need $200.00. How many of us here will die with at least $200 worth of yarn that will be shipped off to goodwill when we pass? I thought so. We can all give some.

  31. As a child my famiy often had to rely on the kindness of strangers – often in the most dire circumstances. Taking charity is never easy, but it can be the difference between tragedy and security. Being callous and pessimistic to those with their hand out is a sign of being victim to the pessimism and and mistrust which has torn the fabric of our community. Yet despite my own past, I have no faith in panhandlers whatsoever and I rarely hand out to the guys on the street. What I do believe in is the goodness in my own heart and I give with discretion.
    I don’t care if this guy’s story was elevated or not, if you have 3 kids and a dog then you need $200.00. How many of us here will die with at least $200 worth of yarn that will be shipped off to goodwill when we pass? I thought so. We can all give some.

  32. One night (in the not too distant past) I spent the night in my car in the local school parking lot. It was not safe for me to return to my home. And I did not even give a thought to the local shelter (which I had made donations to). When in distress, we don’t always think of the “right” thing to do to receive assistance.
    Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. And helping those people was a tremendous thing to do.

  33. Thank you for sharing that with us. Thank you to Sue for having such a kind and giving heart. We should all count our blessings….

  34. What a heartwarming and inspirational story. Isn’t it lovely when fellow man helps fellow man? And they in turn will remember Sue and her family’s helping hand and help someone themselves some day.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  35. Blessings on you Sue, you followed the generosity and kindness in your heart. There is such grief and sorrow in this world, thank you for lifting up a stranger, such acts are never “lost” but take on a life of their own and continue to bless. May more of us be a little less cynical.

  36. You know what’s cool? Everyone here can spell. Yay literate forums!
    Also, Go Sue. You get on with that reaffirming everyone’s faith in humanity.
    I myself tend to always have a little petty cash on me, and if someone has a need, I’ll hand it over. More often that not, though, someone asks for five, I have two, and they won’t take it, saying “It doesn’t help”. Wait, what? Now you only need three! But oh well.

  37. What a wonderful story! I’m glad there are people like Sue in the world. It’s so hard to be spontaneously generous. I don’t know if I could have done the same thing.

  38. Way to go, indeed.
    Perhaps if I knit some ballband clothes, I won’t be so stingy…. with stuff any way. I’m a bleeding heart and will always lend an ear, but cash or stuff… it rarely occurs to me.

  39. Way to go, indeed.
    Perhaps if I knit some ballband clothes, I won’t be so stingy…. with stuff any way. I’m a bleeding heart and will always lend an ear, but cash or stuff… it rarely occurs to me.