BETHANY, OKLAHOMA— You can follow the thread of this story back about ten years. Pat Hendricks remembers a tour she took with a ladies’ quilting group at church. They all went to Bethany Childrens Center to visit with the kids there who’s stay usually averages around two years. “It was just something that made me feel like I wanted to help,” she Pat, “I could do it.”
Pat left a little swatch of herself there that day. Her ladies group made sure they did something for the kids but she kept at it. “You went with a group but you ended up doing this all by yourself,” chuckles a visitor. “It’s just something I do at night,” she responds.
Pat started staying up a little later each night to stitch quilts together, one careful square at a time, all by hand. Hendricks explains, “It’s because of the children over there. They’re such precious little kids.”
At any one time there are more than 200 kids at the Bethany center who live here long term. One of them is Robert Chase. He’s almost 7 years old. His schedule stays busy with enrichment classes to maximize his limited skills. One of his therapists explains while she manipulates his tiny arm. “We are doing range of motion excercises to stretch his muscles and keep them from getting tight.”
Through it all young Robert stays bundled up. He can’t regulate his own body temperature so he needs a blanket tucked around him at all times. Another therapist says, “I think it might feel good to get him out of that position that he rests in.”
Back at her house, Pat Hendricks kept count. She put numbers on her work. She took pictures of the quilts when they were finished. The quilt we watched her stitch was number 251. “This one will probably take me a week,” she says.
You could try to talk to young Robert, or to another child named Blake at the center. You might ask them if they like the quilts that provide life saving warmth, but they don’t communicate well enough to answer.
There’s something beyond mere gratitude at work here that’s central to the idea of a true gift, freely given, the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, no acknowledgement necessary. Pat Hendricks stays at work making Christmas every night come Winter, Spring, and Fall. Hendricks says, “Id rather do this than anything,”