Michael Swaine is sewing his way right into the hearts of his neighbors. On the 15th of every month he takes his beautiful old White Rotary sewing machine into the Tenderloin District of San Francisco and he sews Goodness. Michael offers his services as a tailor to anyone who needs something mended and he does this work for free. Pants hemmed, seams taken in, patches applied, it doesn’t matter, Michael is there to solve sewing problems and mend more than just socks.
For Michael, taking his ice cream cart turned “sewmobile” onto the street corner has become away to exhibit a kind of goodness that is outside of the box. In his mind it is what being a citizen of a community means – a gesture of kindness to his fellow neighbors. For 12 years he has faithfully mended and led by example. In 2001 he began the Generosity Project which is a “mending library” or a place for “fixing the holes in our lives…to borrow thread and sewing machines and talk about life.” The library has evolved into a community resource where people can not only have things mended but also volunteer to help. What started as a one-man work has become a collaborative effort with the community. His example has inspired others to give of their time and ability.
In addition to his efforts as a sidewalk tailor, Swaine is also a performance artist, an inventor, and a professor of ceramics at the California College of Arts. His work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art and New York’s Cooper – Hewitt Design Museum. “I never like picking just one label…it cuts off conversations with groups of people,” Swaine told Ecoutere. (Ecoutere is a website devoted to the future of sustainable fashion design and the primary source of this information) It seems Michael Swaine has been successful at sewing and living outside the box, giving his creative interests free reign. He gives from the overflow of what he has and it is, stich-by-stich, changing the world.
So what can we take from this inspiring social-sewing story? I hope more than just a “feel-good” moment. I hope, in fact, that you will stop and consider how you can live a little more out-of-the-box. What do you have that you can share? What ability do you take for granted that someone else might receive as a huge gift? How can you spread Goodness in your neighborhood?
Remember this Goodness Axiom: Take the little that you have and share it – it will always end up being more than you think. That is how giving works. It multiplies, not divides. Everything in nature shares and look how beautifully that works. The sun would never withhold its light and because it shares, everything grows. Locate some gift or talent you have that to you seems possibly insignificant or unimportant – to someone else it will be a jewel. Find a way to share something good with someone else – start with just one person, one act. Plant the seed and watch it grow. Sew/Sow Goodness.
What can you do to Sew/Sow Goodness into your community?