Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Women At Land’s End

Our Town downtown
December 11, 2006

When we started The Water Log column, we didn’t really know where we’d go with it. It was started on a belief we had that there must be all kinds of stories to explore around the water here in NY. There had to be, we figured—there’s so much of it! We envied the days when there was such booming activity on the city’s docks that there was a regular beat in one or more of the papers called The Shipping News. We wished for that kind of waterfront busyness now, if only so we could have used that great name for our column.

Last week, I grinned when Becca Tucker, who writes The Water Log, told me about two groups of women downtown who knit hats, scarves and other warm things for the mariners and seafarers who go out to sea from here. There you go, I thought, that’s what you find if you look for it, or are just open to it. That’s the beauty of a column, the payoff of a beat—women in Manhattan who knit hats and scarves for men who go out to sea. Would you have guessed it? Even in so huge a city as this, with so much varied activity, that’s still a surprise isn’t it? In an age when people can order Christmas presents from Banana Republic on a laptop while sitting on the couch watching TV, isn’t it a wonderful throwback to think of the women getting together downtown here once a week and making hats for mariners they don’t even know? Isn’t that the best thing you’ve heard in a week?

It is for me. It seems that’s what we need. Eliot Spitzer thinks he’s what we need, and Rudy and Hillary and McCain and the governor of Iowa think they’re what we need. I’m more impressed with those women with their knitting needles. Maybe it’s the lack of vanity in the whole enterprise of making things for somebody else that impresses me. Maybe it’s envy of the men and women who go out to sea. There are a lot of reasons why such things move a person. It made me grin. I see the city differently now. I see people on boats and ships leaving and arriving in the cold. I see those women.

There are all sorts of ways people give of themselves, give their time, to help out. There are soup kitchens and homeless shelters and Big Brothers and Big Sisters and literacy groups that all need people. You could coach a team if you wanted. There are all kinds of opportunities to pitch in and do the equivalent of what the knitting women do. Christmastime always brings with it stories of kids and their families who need things. Churches and various other groups serve meals and need volunteers to help with all that. We all think of doing it. Some people actually do it. There’s still time this year.

One thing we say we’re going to do in the paper is list volunteer opportunities every week. We haven’t done it yet. Even the listing of such things seems to get put off, just like the doing of them does. But we will start compiling them soon and listing them. For us as well as you. Listing them isn’t enough. No more than watching 60 Minutes is enough or reading editorials or voting or listening to NPR. Not if you want to be like those women in Water Log.

-- Bill Gunlocke

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