Sewing up the Community

So what do an old sewing machine and barber’s razor have in common? It’s hard to imagine just what. Perhaps they both have a knack for creating a certain by-product, especially when used outdoors among people. As reported by Steve Hartman in two different stories (On the Road, 5-22-15 and 7-11-14), they are both used to provide a free service to the community, and in doing so, are helping to build those communities.

The sewing machine was an antique when found tossed by the wayside by Michael Swain of San Francisco. The college art teacher came up with an idea to put it to good use. In his free time, he parks himself by the curb of the run-down Tenderloin district of the city to help street people, many homeless, charging them nothing to repair a loose button or tear. While doing so, he found that the sewing machine became an easy topic of conversation. In effect, the antique machine not only repaired clothing, it helped build community.

Eighty-three-year-old Joe Cymerys didn’t have a regular barber’s chair, but a simple folding one would do. Once a person sat in it and heard the buzz of Joe’s razor, the grateful customer knew his bushy head would soon feel lighter. Each Wednesday in a park in Hartford, CT, under the shade of a big oak tree, Joe plugs his razor into an old car battery and sets up to do his thing—something quite different from his old job as a real estate investor. In addition to the haircut, Joe often also finishes up by applying a massage to a scalp or lotion to some smiling cheeks. The only payment expected is a big hug, and everyone is more than eager to show their gratefulness.

Thanks to Michael and Joe, their respective communities, ranging from California to Connecticut, get a bit of unexpected love—the kind of love that builds community, and the kind that is most worthy of being touted as Love Lived Large.

(Secret word for April blog contest: sewing)

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