This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.
SALT LAKE CITY — This week I signed up for Project Protect which is a partnership between Latter-day Saint Charities, Intermountain Healthcare, and the University of Utah Health and I sewed masks to give to front line workers in Utah.
The goal for Project Protect is to make 5 million masks in 5 weeks. My work this week gave them 100 more masks, but it also meant many hours over my sewing machine, many fights broken up among my children, late evenings, and a messy house.
— Mary Richards (@kslmrichards) May 5, 2020
I’ve often known that saying yes to something, even a good thing, can mean saying no to other things. In this case, free time, family peace, laundry, other projects, and so on.
I wake up at 3:30 AM for my job as an early-morning radio reporter. I also help my husband with the intense schooling of our five children who are home from school during the pandemic. Not to mention the cooking and cleaning and laundry and yard work we try to stay on top of constantly.
I also often think about whether I am using my time and talents in the right way. And Tuesday morning, when I read there was still a need for more volunteers to make masks this week, I couldn’t shake the feeling I could help, too.
I signed up for Project Protect online and picked up the materials on Tuesday, in a well-executed drive-through system at the Murray Deseret Industries.
The bag was full of blue material already cut out, and a bundle of strips of the same blue. The instruction sheet explained how to line up the notches on the sides, where to sew, turn it inside out, fold it, pin the sides, sew again, then pin the strips on and sew those. Several steps for each mask.
Thankfully my mother-in-law, who gave me my sewing machine, gave me great advice. She too, has been sewing masks for Project Protect. She advised me on the best way to make an assembly line, sewing groups of masks by doing the same step several times in a row. And she told me the best ways my children could help.
And help they did. The littler ones pushed the pedal when I said “go!’ and let up when I said “stop!” — sometimes hearing me say “stop stop STOP!” as the thread ran away. They also cut thread and pulled out pins. The bigger ones even took a turn sewing the seams by following the lines.
We talked about what the masks would be used for and why. About doctors and nurses and all their work right now. About pandemics and viruses and diseases. And helpers and service. And why mom was still bent over the sewing machine saying “I’ll come up in just a minute!”
When I was alone, I had a show on in the background. I will always think of that blue material if I ever watch “The English Game” or “Emma” again.
On Saturday I returned 100 ready masks. The two littlest came along for the ride as I returned the bag by the deadline. Again going through the drive-through system at DI, following the signs and the women (wearing their own cloth masks) waving me through.
I rolled down the window, handed them over, heard a muffled “thank you so much!” and that was it. I had to move for the next minivan.
As I drove away, I passed a sign saying, “Your front line health care workers thank you!” And I started to cry. My emotions have been close to the surface these past few weeks anyway. But I couldn’t help release more tears.
I thought of those doctors and nurses, putting on one of my masks with slightly crooked seams that little hands helped me push through the sewing machine. What would they face that day? Who would they be able to help because of my small favor?
I thought of the women standing in the sun for hours handing out the kits and collecting them again at DI locations around Utah. I thought of the organizers of this massive project. And of the thousands of other people who were sewing masks in their own homes. What did their homes look like this week? And every week of this five-week endeavor?
I thought of the critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My church. Critics who say the church doesn’t do enough or give enough or donate enough. Do those critics know of the thousands of church members who constantly give of their time and talents for free, without saying a word about it?
Then I thought, did I even do enough? Should I do more? But how can I do more? Isn’t this something for someone else in a different season of life, without a full-time job and five young children? Shouldn’t other people be doing something?
I hesitate to even share this. I don’t want to appear like I want attention for my service. But I do think it changed me for the better. I want my children to serve and give and love and learn as they grow, so I must show them how.
Above all, I want this pandemic to end. And if saying yes to this project helped in any small way toward that end, it was worth it.
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