Anti Hero

There was no way that I was going to win, nor even come close to winning the Martha Stewart award for an American made craft. It just wasn’t going to happen. The last day of voting, I had nearly 4,000 votes, which I was awfully proud of….however, the lead had 100,000 plus. The last week of voting I pulled back and said to myself, “well, there you have it….” Kara kept insisting I keep pushing, keep trying, begging for votes. But, to be honest? I was tired of begging. I’m so frigging tired of begging.

My supporters came out to help, they voted six times a day, they did what they could. But, at some point you just have to agree that your campaign has fizzled….

I was once in a monastery, back in  my 20’s, pursuing a monastic life. And it didn’t work out. I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life, and was content with the idea that I could remain a monk in quiet service to the rest of mankind for the rest of my days when  Brother Robert said to me quite simply, “Sometimes where YOU want to be, isn’t where God NEEDS you to be.”

I remind myself of that when I yearn for something I want deeply, then get reminded quietly when I don’t get it of something else. I’ll explain…

George and I were running errands the other day. And at a stoplight I saw this man off at the corner, waiting to cross once the light changed. He looked about mid 50’s, black trousers so faded they now had that hint of green, the knee caps a shade closer to grey. They were two inches too short for his inseam. His socks had slipped down close to round his ankles. His shoes, both black, both rubber soled, had frayed laces. His shirt was a dark brown plaid, with a slight rip toward the left forearm. You could see it mouth wide as some sort of honest laughing smile when the breeze caught and lift it. His hair was thin, wispy, his long fingered hands holding a grocery bag that had been so over used it was splitting. His head was held down, his eyes blinking only on occasion to the ground, the other time peering up to watch the signal change to allow him passage. Somehow, I felt that was the only thing allowed him. But, let me tell you this much. Those terribly faded pants had a crease, those shoes had a shine, that shirt was tucked in, and that wispy hair was Brylcreemed back on the sides. And when the light changed, his stance grew bold, and he took that passage he was allowed in stride.

That man didn’t have much, didn’t seem to have too much of anything. But, what he had, he held close with pride, and made sure that when he was visible, he was a gentleman. Tattered, faded clothes and all. He was presenting himself a valid MAN, a legitimate human with what he had to offer. And though his clothes were sad at the seams, he wore them with pride. He was DRESSED.

From the direction he was going, I could tell the was heading towards a hotel near here where they rent by the week. A lot of homeless men share one room, pitching in what they can. Its a room they can share, get clean, and sleep in some sense of safety.

I understand why I didn’t get a fraction of the votes necessary for the Martha Stewart award. That isn’t where I’m supposed to be. I don’t knit these teddy bears for the sake of having a clean, photogenic studio where the color palette works well with the furniture. I knit these teddy bears to bring attention to the man I just mentioned above. Somehow that award was about who has more (votes, “likes,” business experience)…and I’m about reminding people about those who have less (like love, hope, food, homes…..)

So, here in the trenches is where I’m needed. Not in Manhattan at a conference. Not in glossy print.

I belong here. Right here. Knitting up teddy bears like a madman for anyone who feels unwanted, unloved, without hope, and in need of something to hold, to remind them that they are not alone.

And that’s as simple as I can put it.

I don’t IMAG2071knit teddy bears to impress. I knit them to remind….no one in pain is alone.

I’m right where I ought to be, where I’m needed.


  1. You’re SO right! And you know what? The mission you were meant to accomplish is by far much more important than appearing in glossy magazines. I’m sorry you didn’t even come close to winning but in the end, I’m grateful that you were able to see the positive side of the experience. And do you know why I’m grateful? Because tonight, of all nights, I badly needed to be reminded that nobody is ever truly alone. Now I will bid you a good night, wish you sweet dreams, and go hug the beautiful teddy bear that you knit for me with so much love.

  2. Hi Gregory! I just wanted to let you know that you are an inspiration to me for the way you write and your adorable teddies! I haven’t bought one yet but I plan to as soon as I can afford to! I am a writer for and as soon as I get paid for my articles, I will be able to order at least one and maybe even 2 bears, one for me and one for my daughter! Thanks for being an amazing writer and knitter! You always make my life a lot more bearable! 🙂

    Lori J. Thorne

  3. Chin up Gregory. God will see that you are where you are meant to be. Martha Stewart is over rated anyway. Part of the reason why your teddy bears are so great is because of your story. I love your teddy bears and someday, when I have a little extra cash, I am going to buy one for my daughter and tell her your story. Until then, keep trudging ahead and making your bears. Maybe next time you will win the contest.

    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

  4. I’m proud to say that you are bigger than Martha Stewart in my world! Love your stories, love your bears, love your writing, love you for being you! Thank you for being who you are and pointing out the good things in life! May God continue to shower his blessings on you, my fried!

  5. Beautiful. I don’t think you could have said it any better. All things are what we make of them. Being where you are needed is far more important than being “liked.”

  6. Dear Gregory,
    I have been meaning to write you a note via snail mail to tell you how much I love my bear…!!!! He came just at the right time!
    Seeing your post reminded me that I know how you feel. I used to be a vivacious outgoing never ending Energizer Bunny type person who worked like crazy and was running here and there to help people.
    I am now a Jr. Senior Citizen who lives far away from home and all my friends and now I deal daily with my disability and struggle with simple things like just walking.
    I often feel “how can I really be of any use to God and to others?”
    Just this week I received a note from a man who I met with a month ago. He flew all the way from California to Tennessee to stop and pick up from me a gift I had to give to the Historical Society in the town where my grandfather’s orphanage was founded. During our time together I somehow got talking about life and death and how we need to think daily about the things we do that count for eternity like being good to others, being honest and living a giving life. His note to me said how much he enjoyed meeting me and that the gift I gave them was the most important they had received. What was even better though was that our talk about eternity had made such a dent in him that he thought about our talk all the way to his meeting in Atlanta. Then several days after he got home his brother called to tell him that their 98 year old father had suddenly died. Now our conversation meant more to him than ever and he told me so.

    Sometimes when we are in places we don’t even see people very much we think we have no way to help or to influence a person’s day. I think of the wonderful quote by Mother Teresa “”We can not all do great things, but we can do small things with great love”.

    Your knitting Teddy Bears may seem small to a Martha Stewart in NYC but what makes your work so important is that you do what you do for others with Great Love.
    It shows in your hand writing and it shows in your work! God’s world is so different from ours. (To be great you have to be the servant of all – The first will be last and the last will be first….etc.) If the world holds up glory and fame, God holds up those with
    humble hearts filled with honesty and love. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!

  7. I started this when I saw your post first but wanted to make it sound right :-).

    When I was kid I so wanted to be one of the popular ones, the ones whose opinion mattered, whose comments got passed on and talked about, the ones who effortlessly led the crowd to the latest thing or the best chat! Then I went very teen age, and who cares what they think! while struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. But as I grew up I realised their little world and views meant little to nothing in real world, I decided that the best revenge for the bullying and isolation was success and to be happy in my own success and not live my life to their tunes! I have done much and gone far, I oversee over a dozen folk, I have a happy family and a good life, my own career is healthy and looking up. I can now see and help others and see a bigger picture, why I am telling you this because every so often I meet or hear about one of those kids and I try to measure my life against theirs. Mostly they are not so happy or traveled so far but then I realise I have no need to be one of them, I am me and that is good enough for me.
    It is hard to escape the measurement of others even when you know better, I voted and watched your total rise, and I think you won, maybe they have another person with more votes but you were not trying to be the popular kid, you were taking part and acquit yourself so well! 4000 votes or there about, that is 4000 clicks of those who know your story and care about you, You rock and as I said, to me, you win! The world isn’t about money but life and happiness, I know you need money to live we all do but the support is there too, and with some of the other sections getting 200k votes each the final prize was going to a food or designer place. From the small beginnings your bears have grown in to their own place in the world.
    Measure your success on your own scales, Martha Stewart measures solely on popularity! Let the popular kids go off and know that you are happy and fulfilled while they may win money, will struggle on for happiness that you have in friends and in your life in abundance.

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