June 24, 2013

Michael Swaine - Mending for the People

photo credit - Gil Regio, Jr.

This month, as part of my "Let's Give Back" series, I'm featuring Michael Swaine. A ceramics professor at the California College of the Arts, Michael gives back by devoting the 15th of every month to helping others less fortunate.

Helping doesn't have to mean writing a big check, or committing to huge chunks of time. Michael is the perfect illustration of somebody who does a small thing that means a lot. Having recognized his talent for sewing, he decided to offer mending services free of charge to the community, expecting nothing in return.

Michael built himself a wheeled push cart, similar to an old fashioned ice cream cart with an umbrella. It's mounted with a simple treadle-operated sewing machine.

He chose the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, an area with a rough reputation of drugs, crime and homelessness. In particular, he heads to the Tenderloin National Forest, an alleyway turned neighborhood park.

Michael likes the idea of repairing what we have, in a world more apt to throw things away. He enjoys meeting people, connecting with each one. Many customers have become regulars. They often pull up one of the chairs that Michael brings, and hang out for a while. They appreciate that he's there with a smile and a listening ear, happy to share stories.

What a great inspiration for how each of us can turn our efforts toward giving! The beauty is in the giving of ourselves. What are my particular skills and talents? How can I use them to help others? The mending is just part of the gift that Michael gives; the better part is the gift of caring.

Watch this fabulous YouTube video to learn more about Michael's mending. 
You'll also hear about the Tenderloin National Forest. 
Be inspired!

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