I am talking about mending in its simplest terms, which is “to make something broken, worn, torn, or otherwise damaged whole, sound, or usable by repairing.”
Mending used to be a kind of old-fashioned idea. Ma Ingalls mended. Marmee mended. Grandmothers mended. Tinkers mended. During World War II, the slogan “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” became a watchword for making sure you didn’t waste valuable food and resources that were needed for the war effort. Mending was a way to support the troops. I still use a pot that was probably mended around that time; my grandfather reattached the handle with a big nut rather than throw it out.
But then we forgot about mending. We got accustomed to tossing the shirt or the pan when it was broken instead of trying to mend. Let’s face it: it was faster and more fun to buy a new one.
In these recession-battered times, however, mending has seen a revival as more and more of us try to get more and more use out of our belongings. The difficulty is remembering how to mend. Too many of us have lost the skill.
I thought of mending the other night as I sat and, well, mended. I had two umbrellas, each with a rib where the stitching had pulled, and a pair of pantyhose that I had poked a toe through. Ten minutes, a little thread, a little stitching, and the umbrellas were whole again and the hose wearable for several more weeks.
When I mend, I sit with a green sewing box that has always been in my life. It originally belonged to my mother. As a little girl, I thought it was the height of elegance, with its green quilted covering. Somewhere along the line, my mother bought a bigger and fancier sewing box, and I inherited the one from my childhood.
I never look at that sewing box without thinking of mending. And sometimes when I think of mending, I mean the simplest definition applied on a larger scale.
Tikkun olam is a Jewish concept of repairing the world to make it whole again. By practicing tikkun olam, we are mending the world. We are making whole something damaged.By practicing tikkun olam, we are also revealing godliness in the world. In Judaism, that is called Kiddush Hashem, or “sanctifying the Divine Name.”
The Gospels speak to this duty as well:
Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, The Message)
Richard Stearns, the author of The Hole in Our Gospel makes this point with stunning accuracy: we cannot sit "smugly in our comfortable bubbles and claim no responsibility for the disadvantaged in our world. God did not leave us that option... Faith and work must be put back together again. We must move beyond an anemic view of our faith as something only personal and private, with no public dimension, and instead see it as the source of power that can change the world. Faith is the fuel that powers the light that shines in the darkness."
As with our everyday mending skills, we are too often out of practice with mending the world. We shrink from the task. It is too overwhelming. We forget that we are not charged with righting every wrong.
But mending is a small step. Mending is taking something close at hand, be it a damaged umbrella or a damaged spirit, and repairing the tear. Mending is strengthening a loose button or a shaky friend. Sometimes we use a needle and thread to mend something. Sometimes we use duct tape. Sometimes we use our hearts.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts tonight at sunset. Tonight also marks the start of the High Holidays, the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. The High Holidays are a time of reflection and repentance.
And they are a time of mending the world, one small stitch at a time.
I'm linking up with Michelle over at Graceful today.