Michael Swaine is an art teacher—a job that he loves. But on the 15th of each month, you’ll find him sitting on a stool in front of a sewing cart he designed and built. You might mistake the umbrella-shaded pushcart for an ice cream or hot dog stand. Actually, though, this cart has an old treadle sewing machine installed inside of it. Michael sets up shop on the sidewalk in a tough neighborhood in San Francisco. There, he “mends people’s holes.” (Watch the video on this page for his inspiring story.)
Of course, Michael’s talking about patching clothes. But it’s clear that his patience, practicality, and acceptance of people from all walks of life—along with the whirring, foot-powered antique sewing machine—puts smiles on the faces of many passers-by. It’s as if, along with mending clothes, he’s putting some joy in people’s pockets.
Michael’s project is so caring, so simple, so grassroots; it reminds me of what Christ Jesus did. Stay with me here: I realize no one can fill Jesus’ shoes. But, as we learn to fill our own shoes well—to compassionately see the inherent good in those around us—each of us can bring healing to individuals in our communities, just as Jesus did.
I can’t think of anyone who was more successful at mending people’s holes—redeeming people’s lives from emptiness, illness, despair, and even death—than Christ Jesus was. Instead of seeing an individual as a material body in need of physical patchwork, he saw man’s present spiritual nature, which permanently includes holiness and perfection. You could say that Jesus patched up the holes in people’s lives by seeing that there were no holes to begin with. He saw people as God sees them—completely spiritual, without a thread of materiality. This spiritual point of view brought healing instantly.
For example, three of the books in the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—give the account of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. Two of the books also mention that she had been to many physicians for help. I can only imagine how harrowing twelve years of doctoring in those times must have been. Also, in her culture, she would have been viewed as unclean every moment of those twelve years. (See Leviticus 15:25-30.) The loneliness and desperation this condition caused must have felt like a huge hole in her life.
But then she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, and in that instant, her life was restored.
Jesus knew that the woman’s spiritual identity never contained a hole. It was never torn by sadness, despair, or the material body’s malfunction. He saw this woman, and everyone else he encountered, as God’s spiritual, pure, and beloved child. This correct point of view healed the sick, and proved for all time that what God has created is complete and holy, now and forever.
Nineteenth-century healer, Mary Baker Eddy, based her system of healing--Christian Science—on the works of Jesus. She wrote about the power of God that maintained man’s completeness in Jesus’ day and that still operates in people’s lives today. Mrs. Eddy compared man’s whole spiritual identity to a complete garment when she said, “The divine Science of man is woven into one web of consistency without seam or rent” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 242).
I like to think of this passage as pointing out that everything about us was designed, created, and is maintained by God, whose nature is infinite. In the infinite, there are no beginnings or endings, no edges—and therefore, no holes. Man’s spiritual identity—the only identity we have ever had—has never had a tear, never had a seam. There has never been an opening through which sickness, lack, or even death can enter. That’s a fact.
Thanks to Michael Swaine’s mending, there are definitely fewer torn clothes and more joy in his community. And using his example of compassion and practicality, combined with Jesus’ godly point of view, we, too, can bring healing to our own communities, by seeing everyone we meet as already whole. Holy and complete. Without patches, and needing no repair.
How did Jesus see things?
Science and Health p. 476
Veronika Scott was just a college student when she got the idea to help the homeless population in Detroit by creating a winter jacket that turns into a sleeping bag. Soon, however, she saw that the coats—while useful—weren’t meeting the underlying need. That’s when she started thinking differently.
Like Veronika, we all yearn to have a positive impact. And with problems like unemployment, homelessness, global warming, abandoned animals, and on and on, the opportunity to help our communities really is around every corner. But how do we know what action to take to do the most good? How can we discern what the real need is—along with a solution that will provide more than a band-aid?
Taking a deeper look at what good really is helps us to act with the best intentions to affect change in the world. The words of Jesus, and the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, both define God as good. Not just a divine being who is good to His creation, but the essence of good itself. Good that’s actually a power.
Defining God as good, and therefore the source of all good, was important to Jesus. In an account found in three different places in the New Testament, a man addresses Jesus as “Good Master,” and then asks him how he can achieve eternal life. Before offering the man an explanation about the requirements of eternal life, Jesus first responds by saying, “Why do you call me good? There’s only one good, and that’s God.”
It’s as if, before anything else is covered, Jesus wants to acknowledge that God is the source of his good, the man’s good, and every ounce of good going on anywhere. That’s an important fact that still applies today. It can change the world because if unlimited and all-powerful God is the driving force behind the good you do, everyone is included, your actions can’t be hindered or stopped, and they will bring countless blessings to your community and the world.
Since God is the source of all genuine good, it takes unselfishness and heartfelt inspired listening to understand how to do the most good in the world. We’re listening to God for the kind of excellent idea that shifts thought from the ordinary to the extraordinary. That kind of inspiration changes the lives of those on the giving end, as well of those on the receiving end.
I believe that Veronika Scott—not a college student anymore, but now Founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan—has achieved that kind of excellence. When you watch Veronika’s video, she’ll tell you about how her idea developed into the outstanding project it is today. Although I have no idea what her religious views are, I can see God at work right there in her heart and the heart of Detroit.
The creativity, resourcefulness, and courage to develop her plan and go forward with it, could only have come from Good itself. Veronika’s idea was simple, but has been profoundly life-changing for many people. Not only did she create a convertible coat for the homeless population in Detroit—and now around the world—but she also exercised humility to expand on her plan. The willingness to see her idea develop and grow into something she wasn’t expecting has given her the ability to offer jobs to homeless women to help her manufacture these coats. With steady employment, many of these women have left homelessness behind. In a small but significant way, Veronika’s initial plan hasn’t just helped the homeless population, but has actually done something to combat homelessness itself.
Veronika is an inspiring example of how creativity and unswerving love for the community—both having their source in God—can have a profound effect for good in the world. She inspires me to see the action of doing good in a new and inspiring way. With that kind of devotion to excellence, and to Good itself, nothing can keep any of us down!
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!