It all started with a used coat.
Betty Henson didn’t need her fuzzy green coat anymore, so she offered it to her son, an aspiring puppeteer. Jim stuffed and stitched it, creating a round head, a dense torso and lanky limbs. He folded a deep mouth and split a ping pong ball to make the eyes.
An adorable amphibian was born: Kermit the Frog.
In 1955, Kermit debuted in “Sam and Friends,” airing on WRC-TV, a local Washington, D.C. station. The frog proved remarkably expressive, thanks to Jim’s decision not to stuff the head. With only his hand inside it, each movement became a subtle change of expression. Somehow, Kermit reached through the television and connected with viewers.
He would soon become a star, paving the way to the global phenomenon of “The Muppet Show” – all thanks to a mother’s hand-me-down.
I’ve been reflecting on her gift this May, as we celebrate Mother’s Day and power through a busy month held together by moms armed with snacks, schedules and stain remover, the family’s comprehensive to-do list etched into their sleep-deprived brains.
Their daily sacrifices make it all possible. Sometimes their dreams are spurred in surprising ways, and the church – the Body of Christ – springs into action.
That’s what happened to Mindy Hoefer, a 42-year-old mom of eight who belongs to the Church of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. For years, her wedding dress sat in a brown box in the closet, professionally cleaned and tucked away. Out of sight, out of mind.
It had been perfect for her June wedding – a David’s Bridal “Lady Eleanor” dress with a sheer overlay and beaded floral design.
It wasn’t until Mindy’s oldest daughter, Eva, was preparing for her First Holy Communion that it occurred to the busy mom: perhaps her wedding dress could be made into a First Communion dress. Mindy couldn’t find anyone willing to take on a project of that scope, so instead, she contributed her wedding veil for Eva’s big day.
Life marched on, but Mindy never forgot her vision to give the old dress a new purpose.
Last year at their parish fundraiser, Mindy’s name was drawn in a raffle. She could pick one item from the live auction before it began.
Mindy recalled that a parishioner named Debbie had donated an alterations certificate and that her daughter, Cecilia, would be making her First Holy Communion the following spring…
Mindy made her choice.
Debbie was more than receptive to the idea. The two women discovered “a unity in dream and desire to draw my daughters closer to Jesus through the dress,” Mindy said. “The Holy Spirit’s involvement became abundantly clear.”
As Debbie worked, the dress proved to be “a vehicle for evangelization,” Mindy said, sparking conversations with friends, neighbors and grandchildren about its special purpose.
Twenty years after Mindy wore her wedding dress, it was worn for another sacrament: Cecilia’s First Communion.
God blesses our faith-filled efforts. He multiplies our generosity – finding the seamstress, making the way. He simply asks us to set things into motion.
Pope Francis expressed this during Lent of 2020, early into the Covid-19 quarantine. He preached, “This is what we need today: the creativity of love.”
What some might call magic or luck – the winning of a raffle, the work of needle and thread, the transformation of an old green coat – has a more apt name. The creativity of love.
So go ahead with your meager offerings. Give up your scraps, your bad jokes, your early mornings. Reheat the leftovers and say a prayer. Offer up your off-key songs and your lumpy body, your half-baked ideas and your overcooked ham. Toss it all into the Strega Nona pot and trust the creativity of love.
Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
Pictured above: Cecilia Hoefer with seamstress Debbie. (Photo courtesy of Mindy Hoefer)