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Quilting as a character lesson

A recent feature story on the front page of the Suffolk News-Herald served as a reminder of that we can all continue to have vital and interesting lives well into retirement and old age.

Vermelle Byrd was looking for a new hobby when she found an ad in the paper for an upcoming quilting class. After retiring from a 40-year career as a teacher for Suffolk Public Schools, she was looking for something to spice up her life. Though many of us probably would argue the question of just how spicy quilting can be, most of us can surely understand the desire for something new.

In the great spirit of America, Ms. Byrd set out to find that new thing, to conquer a skill she’d never learned. She set herself a goal — to learn how to make a quilt — and headed off to a class where she believed she would be able to discover that knowledge.

The twist here is that Ms. Byrd didn’t even know how to sew, a skill that can pretty quickly be understood to be fundamental to the business of quilting. “No big deal,” she thought. “I’ll learn to sew.” Blessed with a willing and understanding teacher — who, in turn praised Ms. Byrd’s initiative and determination — she set out to climb a metaphorical mountain that was even higher than she’d originally thought it to be. And climb it, she did, learning how to quilt at the same time she was learning to sew.

It certainly wasn’t the most important, earth-shaking news of the day, but the story of this one lady who set her mind to something and accomplished it provides wonderful object lessons in the powers of human persistence, determination, self-confidence and the desire ever to be learning something new.

Most of us already knew it, but it never hurts to be reminded that it’s not our age that matters most; it’s our character.