Not every institution is made of bricks and steel. Some are less substantial, but just as important.
At East Side Christian Church in Evansville earlier this month, cheers erupted when yarn piece number 12,000 was added to a yarn ball brought by storyteller Susan Fowler.
"I reference it as 'a world of smiles', but really, it's a yarn ball. Officially, it is a cardboard dodecahedron depicting the earth, with pieces of multi-colored yarn wrapped around it that represent a hope and a positiveness for this earth," says Fowler.
For the past seven years, Fowler has carried the ever-growing ball of yarn from place to place, encouraging young and old to add "smiles" as she terms them, to the ball. Fowler, a Purdue graduate with bachelor's and master's degrees in agronomy, speaks about diversity and the environment and holds storytelling sessions for her business Harmony by Hand.
Fowler knows that she has 12,000 of the 12 inch pieces of yarn on the ball because she keeps track at each event in a colorful loose-bound book she calls "The Diary". The date of the event, some notes, the number of pieces added, and the running total are all carefully chronicled there.
I asked her the obvious question, why?
Fowler gets a bit emotional when asked that question. "When I travel this (the ball) around, it reminds of the 12,000 stories there. I have a legacy to keep. When I began in 2007, the children who tied "smiles" on it aren't kids any more. When they see it now, they say, 'Hey, I added one of those smiles, and it's way down in there!' They squirrel their finger into the yarn and try to feel their piece. People identify with it, they feel connected. And, I feel it."
Fowler says now that she has 12,000 pieces of yarn, her next goal is to get over 14,000 pieces in honor of the highest mountain she has climbed, Mt. Elbert, in Colorado.