Featurette Friday: April 25, 2014

Featurette Friday is the name.

Kindness is the game.

Typically, every other Friday I interview a person with the majority of questions focusing on kindness.

But why?

Because we see negativity every day and I think it is important to focus on the positive and remind ourselves that there are wonderful people in this world.

No matter a persons background, status, or creed I believe they have been shown kindness in their life and have shown others kindness as well.

And I would like to tell that story.

Interviewee: Ruth Vandam

Age: 68

I met with Ruth on a sunny Friday afternoon on my lunch hour. I could not escape work so she was lovely enough to meet me in my office. Ruth was suggested as someone I "had to interview" because she "has a beautiful heart" by our mutual acquaintance Mary.

I meet a lot of nice people, I seek out kindness and goodness wherever I go, because I know it's always there.

Even if we don't see it immediately, the good is waiting to be discovered, or in the rare case it is not there we can always work to create it.

Ruth is a nice person, but she's more than that.

She is a living testimony that life is not only controlled by actions, but more so our reactions.

Ruth knows life can have its dark moments.

The way she lives her life shows us though, that we don't need to stumble in the darkness, we just need to turn on the light for ourselves and  for others.

I was the last stop for Ruth that day.

She had a busy day of chemotherapy followed by shopping for fabrics . The fabric she was purchasing is part of one of the projects filled with love she's working on for fellow cancer patients.

Jenn: Ruth, Mary showed me the hats you have made. How did you get started with those?

Ruth:  Well, Mary actually got me started on that project. I have a wig  I don't wear.

It doesn't feel natural and always feels like it's going to fall off. I had a knitted cap to wear which is fine in cooler weather but would not be okay to wear in the summer. It would be too hot.

Mary gave me the last two flannel caps. A lady was making them and giving them to Mary so she could give to her patients. I took one and gave the other to my friend Karen.

The first thing I did with mine was rip it apart. I needed to figure out the pattern.

How many have you made?

Ruth: Oh, about 30. But I'm working on making more. I was just at Walmart picking up some more fabric before coming here.

I understand that's not the only project your working on is that correct?

Ruth: Yes. I make Mary bags.

What is a Mary bag?

Ruth: Did you know in parts of the world when a woman gets her period she lives in segregation?

In this day and age?

They don't go to school, they don't leave their houses, they just sit in the dirt not being able to live their life in their normal way because they don't have access to feminine products and don't normally wear underwear.

A Mary bag can help these girls and women maintain a normal life. It is a bag given to a woman for her time of the month.

It is a  carry-wet bag which holds the soiled liners until they can be washed.

We are working on redesigning the bag so it's separated. One side for clean, and the other side for used.

The women are given three pairs of medical underwear. They are mesh, easily washed, dried and replaced as needed.

I make the bags, the liners and the shields. Each woman receives one bag, 10 liners, 3 shields and three pair of the underwear.

Three shields with snap closures,
which fasten around and snap under
the crotch panel of the underwear.

A shield can be worn for the entire day, while the liners should be changed as needed.

Ten liners, made of absorent materials which is folded in thirds and lays on top of the shield, is held in place by fabric end caps.

How did you get started with this project?

Over a year ago, I was at a church bazaar, at Trinity Lutheran Church. A lady came to our booth to talk about her mission, about how we could help girls and women lead a normal life by a simple sewing project.

I decided to pursue it and the sewing group welcomed me with open arms.

I believe God brought me to this group. I have given myself a goal of making 1000 pads, which will help 100 women. I have been working on my project since late November 2013.

I started chemo for my breast cancer on January 3rd of this year. It has slowed me down but it hasn't stopped me.

Biggest accomplishment in life?

She thought for a moment when a peaceful smile grew on her face. The sun permeated the window and added an incandescent glow to her already shining face.

Ruth: Using the gifts God has given
me to brighten the lives of
someone else.

Any regrets?

Ruth: Not taking care of my physical body better than I did.

When you get older it is harder to take care of yourself and change your habits. It is better to create a habit of taking care of yourself at a younger age instead of trying to catch up when you're older.

Best act of kindness you have

Ruth: There is a lady who brings homemade soup to the Cancer center where I get my chemotherapy. She also works the soup kitchen every Wednesday.

This lovely woman and her daughter come every Friday and serve all the patients, family members and offer soup to staff.

They are healing people with their kindness.

Is kindness important to you?

 so, why is kindness important
to you?

Ruth:  Being kind makes you feel good and it comes back around to you.

Kindness is important because it raises the spirits and makes people happy.

Everyone deserves to be happy.

What advice would you give to people who are going through a
rough time?

To rely on the Lord.

What is the bravest thing you have done?

Face this cancer.

I've had help though. My daughter and her husband filled a MP3 player for me with inspirational music.

They filled it with songs and one of them is "Breath of Heaven" and it truly energizes me.

Breath of Heaven is a song by Amy Grant that is about Mary asking God if she was truly the right choice to bear his child. If you'd like to listen to the song click HERE.

I realized how scary it must have been at that time for Mary, being chosen to be the mother of Jesus but she persevered. If she can face that and Jesus could suffer for us I can make it through this battle.

Some days are hard. But you have to put life in perspective.

On rough days I have to remind myself that people are going
through a lot more than I am.

I have a sister who was diagnosed with lung cancer last year. She was having pain in her side. She recently went in for a MRI and they found that the cancer has spread to her other lung and liver she is now in Hospice because she wants to be at peace.

If she can go through her days with her terminal prognosis I can definitely about my day and continue my fight.

I am my husbands fourth wife. He is 84 and has many medical issues. He has had a stroke, heart attack, has neuropathy, and Alzheimers.

He is the one used to being sick.

I was afraid to tell him because his third wife had battled four bouts of cancer.

Sometimes, I have to ask the Lord for patience.

I know right now my life is difficult path to walk but here I am, still moving forward.

Is there anything you would like my readers to know?


Reach out and help. If you find a way to help, let others know how they can help.

It can be so easy for us to make a difference.

It is amazing how one decision, a small action can cause a big reaction in other peoples lives.

It can change their world.

I am so glad I met Ruth. Even though she is in the midst of caring for her husband, choosing to fight her cancer with a smile on her face, she also appreciates the good in the world.

I suspect it is because she has added so much good into the world, that it is evident to her.

She is a rare person, not only in the sense that she is a genuine lovely person, but also in the sense that even though she may had some unexpected difficulties in life she has stayed true to herself and her commitments to help others when it would have been understandable for her to put her projects on the back burner.

If you are interested in checking out more information on the Mary bags, please click HERE or go to this website:


The following picture was taken directly from the above listed website.

This is what Ruth makes for women across the world:

Some of the hats Ruth has made for fellow cancer patients.


  1. Jenn: Thanks so much for doing this article on my Aunt Ruth VanDam we love her so much and she is everything that your column says and more when they come to Tennessee to visit she brings all her sewing stuff and is always making something we have a lot of things she has made. I shared this article on my facebook page in Clarksville, Tennessee for everyone to read and share with others. Thanks again

    Diane Wood Turner
    Clarksville, Tn.

    1. Diane,

      I would have responded earlier but I did not see your comment until now so I do apologize for the delay.

      Ruth is an amazing woman with a beautiful heart. It was my honor to meet and interview her.

      I find too many times people have excuses or negative things to say when the opportunity to help others comes up.

      It is refreshing and inspiring to meet someone who brings love where they go and displays their kindness in their actions.

      This has been shared on Facebook a few times over and the response is the same-she is an amazing lady :-)

  2. Thank you for writing this blog on Ruth. I am blessed to call her my mother - in - law. She has always been a very generous woman, constanly thinking of other people. This article means a lot to me.

    1. Vicki, it was my pleasure to meet with Ruth. She is an extraordinary lady.

  3. We are so very proud of Ruth and she has really taken on cancer without complaint or any "poor me" attitude. I truly admire her strength and for her being so positive throughout the past months. She has always been there for people and used her hands to help so many. I am just in awe how much she is willing to do as she goes through treatment and battles cancer. I am proud to call her my stepmother and for my children to call her NaNa. As my daughter Maya and I pray for her, Maya says," NaNa is so strong!" I said yes she is and that is because Jesus is so happy with her and how she helps others. Thanks Jenn for taking the time to share and tell her story.
    from Steven VanDam


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