I learned how to knit scarves a few years ago, which is totally GREAT except for one thing: a person only needs so many winter scarves. And here's another thing: that same person's family and friends only need so many scarves, as well.

OK, what do I do now? You know how some people gotta dance? Well, honey, I gotta knit! It's like I'm the original girl who's all dressed up (in lots of scarves!) with no place to go.

I solved my problem temporarily when I hit upon the idea of knitting as an act of charity. I would (a) knit scarves and (b) donate them to a women's shelter here in town. Yes! What a brilliant idea! That way I would be killing two birds with one stone — the knitting bird and the contributing-to-my-community bird.

(MEMO TO PETA: Don't worry. I'm not really into bird-killing.)

Also, it's something people could say about me at my funeral — here lies a woman who lost herself in the service of knitting fancy scarves for others, including strangers. Dude! People would walk away from my funeral thinking I was Mother Teresa! Except for the not-being-a-nun part! And also the not-living-in-India part! But whatever! India is all muggy and hot, and it's not like they really need winter scarves there anyway.

So I started knitting with renewed fervor, thinking about my funeral and how HAPPY it would make me to hear the bishop say nice things about my scarves, and in NO time at all I'd whipped up a couple for donation purposes, which I took to the shelter last Thursday.

OK. I don't know what I expected. The Nobel Peace Prize maybe? What I didn't expect was the information that because of the recent Christmas holiday, the shelter already has way more scarves than it knows what to do with. The receptionist who gave me this information could not have been more gracious or polite. Furthermore, she was being straight with me, but still. I felt like a kid whose invitation to the prom has been refused. I felt rejected.

Until I forced myself to reflect upon the nature of true service.

Service is a good thing. And the impulse to provide it should be nurtured whenever possible. Especially in our children! Who will hopefully bundle us up in warm afghans and take us for little rides in the car when we're old!

But frankly, the service should be about the receiver's needs, not those of the giver. Before I embarked on my Big Service Knitting Adventure, I should have called the shelter to see if they actually needed what I wanted to provide. And when they told me they didn't need scarves, I should have asked what they wanted instead.

Showing up at the shelter with a sack full of scarves was the equivalent of my grandmother coming to our house to clean out the cupboards, even though I didn't need or want my cupboards cleaned out. ... and then expecting me to be grateful when she was finished rearranging everything for me.

Anyway. That's my thought for the day. So now I'll return to my knitting.

And if you want a new scarf, please feel free to send me your address.

E-mail: acannon@desnews.com