"So many people need someone to talk to," says Reva Hoewing of Poolesville, Md. "I just listen."
The 76-year-old owner of Crafts-a-Plenty does a lot more than that. The mother of five, the grandmother of 12 and the great-grandmother of eight, she still works five days a week in the crafts shop she opened over 30 years ago.
Back then, Hoewing worked as a teacher in a program for underprivileged children. Her crafts lessons proved so popular that locals in her small town of 5,000 began asking her for classes.
But a fondness for cross-stitching and making pine cone wreaths isn't what keeps her working after all these years. "It's the interaction with people," she says. "I could do crafts at home."
So she's become Poolesville's unofficial mother confessor.
"I think half the town goes to her with their heartaches, including me," says longtime customer Philomena Roy. "She should work for the FBI. She has a mouth like a clam."
Hoewing never turns anyone away; never hurries someone out if they don't buy something. "I enjoy talking to people," she says. "I think it's my mission. Someone needs someone to talk to, and here I am. Some days I go home exhausted, but I'm back the next day. My daughter says I should change the name of the store to the Crying Towel."
"I call her the Glue Gun of Broken Hearts," says Roy.
Hoewing, who sings in her Methodist church choir, credits her faith with sustaining her: "If you don't have God in your life, it's hard to do things on your own."
Spirituality aside, the business does make a profit, though Hoewing reports she's not getting rich doing it. And she's proud not to owe anyone anything, either.
But her biggest craft is a skill increasingly in short supply in the Too Much Information Age: she listens. "I don't try to give people solutions or guide them a certain way," Hoewing says.
"She speaks with such gentleness of voice," Roy adds. "It's so easy to talk to her."
So who does Hoewing turn to when she needs to pour out her own troubles?
"I talk to my best friend," she says. "And that's my husband." The pair have been married since 1952, when Hoewing was just eighteen. "If I had to marry again," she says, "I'd marry the same guy."
Raymond Hoewing went on to head the Public Affairs Council, encouraging civic engagement, before retiring to focus on charity work. But his wife and best friend has no plans for retirement.
"Not unless they sell the building out from underneath me," she says. "Why retire when you're happy?"
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
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