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
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!