|The good news bears|
|Monday, December 19, 2011|
Stuffed toy bruins holding blankets and poems with kind sentiments have captured the hearts of hundreds of Wilson Countians during the past year.
The majority of these aptly named burden bears have come from the caring hands of Connie Tipton, a practicing speech language pathologist who moved to Lebanon this past December.
Her cheery-beary mission was inspired in 1995 during a stay in a St. Joseph, Mo., hospital when a friend from church gave her a stuffed brown bear wearing a 26-line poem.
“A friend of mine, Linda Beers, brought me a bag, and said, ‘Look inside after I leave.’ After she left, I looked at it, and when I read the poem, I was overwhelmed with the burden bear poem,” said Tipton, who still has that teddy bear.
“It made such an impression on me. I thought it was such a great encouragement for the elderly, young people with health difficulties, those with emotional problems or going through divorces or just a student going off to college. It’s a way to let them know you are thinking about them and that God is there to lean on and He has a plan.”
A few lyrics of the poem read:
My Granny always told me,
“Life is like this patchwork quilt,
Just give Jesus all the pieces
And He’ll make a pretty quilt.”
Sometimes I don’t see the pattern,
Sometimes He seems far away,
Then I clutch my favorite blanket
And I pray and pray and pray.
Tipton has given away 300 to 400 of the bears since she and her husband Ken relocated to Lebanon. She estimates she has passed out about 2,000 during the past 16 years. The parents of three daughters and grandparents of six have been married 42 years, moved 43 times and lived in 25 towns and nine states.
“Since 1995, I have done this everywhere I have gone, and I have tried to encourage others to take the thought and share it with their churches or organizations or wherever they want to because it’s such a kind and godly message. I can’t give credit to who wrote the poem because I don’t know who wrote it but am passing it on in good faith,” Tipton said.
Two weeks ago, Tipton boarded about 60 burden bears at her house, but they departed quickly after she took two dozen bears to Brooks House in Lebanon and more to Hearthside.
The snuggly bears were an instant hit at Brooks House where sisters Kristen, 5, and Kaitlyn Bolin, 3, received the teddies with glee in their eyes.
Tipton accumulates toy bears of all sizes and colors from Goodwill stores, yard sales and friends.
“I ask people to give them to me if they’re not sentimental to them. I wash and air dry all the bears and put on the blankets made from old grandma quilts. I cut the quilt with scissors to form a small blanket. I can get about 80 bear quilts from one quilt,” Tipton said.
“I ask others to help me sew around the blanket on their sewing machines so it won’t unravel, and it looks like a finished blanket. Then I attach it to the arm of the bear with a safety pin, and I use a string to put through the laminated poem and tie it around the other arm and then you have your bear. Lots of times I will put their name, my name and ‘thinking of you’ and perhaps a scripture, if appropriate, on the bear," she said.
“I’ve either got bears coming or going. Some nights I can make 20 or 30 bears while watching TV. Some are so small that you can hold them in palm of your hand, and some are the size of a 2- or 3-year-old.”
When women visit Tipton’s home, she gives each a bear and tells the story of why she does it. Then she asks them to bring her pieces of old grandma quilts and bears.
“They are just so encouraging. Who wouldn’t like a little teddy bear? It’s OK even for an adult because it’s the sentiment behind the poem and the love behind the bear.
“It’s just an opportunity to let somebody know that you care, and you’ve got those people everywhere if you look around. Everybody needs a burden bear,” said Tipton, the bearer of good news bears.
by Ken Beck