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  • Writer's pictureJena Ball

Follow the Thread

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." - Chief Seattle

My grandmother taught me about threads by teaching me to knit and crochet. She also attempted (emphasis on "attempted") to teach me sewing and the finer points of ladylike behavior, but was less successful with those. Sewing needles were too sharp for my fingers, and I've never been - and have no intention of becoming - a lady. Her approach to teaching me these skills did, however, teach me patience.

Before I could begin a project, she'd hand me a tangled mess of yarn that had been lurking in the back of one of her craft bins. My job was to undo the knots and wind the yarn into a nice, tight ball that could be gradually unrolled as the needles worked their magic.

I call the process of creating blankets, sweaters, scarves, and mittens magic because all those things are the result of using single threads of yarn and pointy sticks (some with hooks at the end) to create interconnected rows of knots. Magic. But I digress.

My grandmother would sit me down on the couch and put the yarn in my lap. "Follow the thread," she'd say. By this she meant start with one end of the yarn and follow it through the tangled twists, turns, loops and knots until I had one long, unbroken thread that could be wound into a smooth round ball.

Occasionally, when we were low on yarn or grandma was on one of her waste-not want-not crusades, she'd pull out a tub of outgrown, worn out sweaters, ski hats, and scarves reeking of mothballs, and have me unravel the thousands of carefully formed stitches into single threads, then wind them into tidy balls.

As I pondered how to share and explain my project with you, I began thinking about grandma and her threads. Like Chief Seattle, I began to see each of us as a single thread in the larger fabric of life. Your thread is singular and imbued with a unique path and purpose. But if you're like me, the thread of your life was knotted with complex challenges. The process of untangling the knots took many years and a lot of hard work. Though my thread is by no means completely clear of snarls, I now have a pretty clear understanding of who I am and what I want to accomplish in this life. I am eager to share my vision with you.

Which brings me to the project I've been promising to tell you about - Braided Lives.

Braided Lives is a multi-platform initiative designed to bring people from all walks of life together to tell their stories and collaborate on the creation of a more equitable and sustainable future. The concept was born in response to the isolation, stress, anger, and frustration that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing racial tensions.

It was clear to us that people are hungry for connection. They need places to meet to comfort, console, and encourage one another. They need tools that allow them to communicate and share ideas effectively. Places and tools that make it possible to braid the individual threads of their lives into powerful communities of change.

The logo above is meant to capture the heart of the Braided Lives vision. The hand at the center is making the ASL sign for love. Around the wrist is a colorful collection of friendship bracelets, symbolizing the diversity and strength of the members of our community. The water at the base represents the interconnected and interdependent sea of life we all swim in.

Braided Lives is designed to reach people where they are and will exist on three platforms: As a website, as 3D interactive rooms, and in the immersive, virtual world of Second Life. To learn more about each of these three platforms and Braided Lives' four areas of focus, visit:

Please take a moment while you're there to sign up to stay in touch and connect with me on Facebook (JenaiaMorane) so I can add you to the Braided Lives Facebook group. We would really appreciate it if you could also share this post to your Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook feeds. Let's make magic happen!

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