Susan McKee is founder of the nationwide “Knitting4Peace” project, which organizes participants in the West to create prayer scarves and other items to gift, with love, to strangers in far-off lands of deprivation and conflict.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Susan McKee, Knitting4Peace[REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: Welcome back, everybody, to State of Belief Radio. I’m Welton Gaddy.
One of the risks of closely following the news is the danger of becoming depressed and overwhelmed. Bad news is everywhere, and the suffering and inequities are so great that it’s a normal defense mechanism to simply tune it out, going on about the more mundane matters of daily life. So, then, I’m always fascinated by people that somehow don’t let themselves become paralyzed, but rather find some form of action they can take – something that’s meaningful for them, and helpful to other people. Often the action is unexpected, unusual, and yet the positive human impact can be immeasurable.
This past summer when I was at Chautauqua Institute, my wife Judy was with me, and Judy met a woman named Susan McKee. And Susan McKee is a profile, an incarnation of the kind of person that I just described. Her endeavor is “women 4 women, knitting 4 peace.” “Women,” and she uses the numerical “4,” “women,” – women4women, knitting4peace. And on the line right now, fortunately, is this group’s founder Susan McKee. Judy, my wife said: “You need to have her on State of Belief Radio.” I do most of what my wife tells me to do – not all of it – but following through on this one has been great. Susan, welcome to State of Belief Radio.[SUSAN McKEE, GUEST]: Thank you Welton, it’s a privilege to be with you. [WG]: Well, let’s start with what Knitting for Peace is; will you talk a little bit about that? [SM]: Knitting for Peace is a vision, and a conviction, and a community; it’s women across the United States and Canada who believe that small actions can transform our world. So we engage in small physical acts, non-violent acts, that we combine with our prayer and our intention for a world that will be a better world. Our outward and visible signs are knit and crocheted and woven items. When we first began, we began just making peace shawls for other women, and since then we have felt the spirit’s movement, and have begun making knit dolls for boys and girls around the world that we call “peace pals.” We do scarves for children and teens, and caps for children and teens, and blankets of peace for families in communities like Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. [WG]: How did this come to you? How did you think of this? [SM]: I didn’t really think of it, Welton, it was one of those movements of the spirit that came from over a year’s worth of discernment. We were at Chautauqua the summer of 2004 when Sister Joan Chittister was present with some women from a community in Israel, a community called Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam, which in Hebrew and Arabic means “oasis of peace.” And Sister Joan Chittister’s message that week was that peace will never happen in our world until women become involved in radical new ways. And the women from Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam said: “Please don’t forget about us, please don’t forget about us.” And those two voices resonated for me in a deeply powerful way.
I spent the next year – I didn’t know it was going to take that long, but I tried to pay attention to the nudging and the yearning that seemed to be very, very strong inside of me in response to those women’s voices – and did a lot of prayerful work with my mentors. And the following summer when we were back at Chautauqua, interestingly, I had what I can only describe as a bit of a vision: that women really could be engaged in radical new ways of peace-making and that it could be done in a way that really could make a difference in the world. And these things that we do are really outward signs of our effort to knit together the global beloved community.[WG]: And you’ve been able to do that. You’ve got people participating in this from all over the country and beyond. In fact, let me ask you: who’s doing the knitting? [SM]: Well, everyone from children as young as 6 to women who are as old as 101 so we’re cross-generational; we don’t have a lot of cross-gender involvement but we do have some. Women knit individually in their own private lives and they sometimes gather together in intentional groups. We have over thirty groups that we call “peace pods,” that, across the country, come together to do this work as a community. [WG]: Who – let’s go to the other end of it now – who receives your peace shawls and dolls and other works that you’ve knitted? [SM]: Women and children in what we call “global areas of conflict,” which might mean areas of conflict in our own neighborhoods, it might mean areas of conflict all over the world. All of our deliveries are personal deliveries. We don’t go through anonymous groups for delivering, but we have personal connections for all of our deliveries, and we have completed deliveries in 39 countries. We’re a little over five years old, so we just keep growing. We go where the need calls us. [WG]: Do you get any feedback from those countries? [SM]: We do. We repeatedly hear from recipients of the things we deliver, how powerful it is for them: that they feel a very strong sense of the prayers that went into the creation of the items that are received. We frequently hear, in different kinds of language, people’s sense of the presence of God when they receive our things. So the sense of community being created is reflected back to us in the feedbacks that we get, sometimes in emails the recipients send us, but most frequently it comes through the delivery agents themselves. A lot of the people we deliver to are not literate, or not able to have access to international technology, so a lot of what we hear comes back through the people who actually did the delivering. [WG]: I want you to be sure to tell our listeners how they can find out more about Knitting for Peace. I know they’re going to be interested, some will want to be involved. I know you are about to launch a new website in a few weeks, but how, right now, could they find out about Knitting for Peace? [SM]: If they would like direct communication with me, they can send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those are all lowercase letters, and the “knitting for peace” is with a number 4. The new website will be launched on November 11th and that website will be knitting4peace.org. In the meantime, we have a very, very old website that’s up. It is four and a half years old so it’s not much, but it’s something, and that’s: women4women-knitting4peace.org, our full name. [WG]: Well you’re spending all your time knitting instead of working on the website, I understand that. Susan, what has leading and participating in Knitting for Peace done to Susan? [SM]: It has deepened my sense of the mystery of creation, and it has deepened my respect for the yearning of so many people to be able to make a difference in our world and in the lives of other people. [WG]: Mm. So well said. And listen, listeners, this is a woman from whom you can take inspiration, and who can stand for you as a model. She discerned, she saw something she could do, no one else was doing it, she did it. I bet there is some of you that could do the same thing.
Susan, we’re going to link to both web addresses from our site, stateofbelief.com. Susan McKee is the founder of “women4women knitting4peace,” a loosely-knit – pardon the pun – group of individuals creating prayer shawls for others whom they have never met, in faraway, war-torn places. This is the kind of story that needs to go all over this nation, and Susan, thank you for creating a situation that allows us to tell that story, and thank you so much for being with us today, and much success in your work.[SM]: Welton, thank you very much. It has been a great blessing for me to be here.