First I blamed the stairs. Then I blamed the people around me for being in a hurry. Finally I had to admit that I simply wasn’t paying attention.
* * *
Early morning, on a visit abroad for research and speaking engagements, I walk up the steps of the Exeter College library. On the last step the heel of my shoe catches the hem of my slacks, and I hear a ripping sound. Without the luxury to stop and assess the damage, I wait until I reach the library. The ripped hemline is too obvious.
That afternoon I walk into a small shop with a sign: “Mended.” There are walls of spooled thread, fabric of every color and texture imaginable! I am greeted by Ana, the owner of the shop. She inspects the garment and says: “Your shoe only ripped the inside lining. Easy fix. Nobody will notice. Come back in the morning.”
* * *
That evening I look out the window of the university guest room and see the sign: “Mended.” As I take in the lovely scenery I feel a bit homesick.
I am weary of the presentation, a room full of professors, and peers that will question years of research. As soon as this fear begins to surface, I hear the soft wind from outside whistling against the glass windows of the room.
Far away from home, preparing for a presentation, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled that my heavenly Father has brought me this far. What else am I meant to learn here, God?
* * *
In the morning I return to “Mended.” I look closely at the stitching. No evidence of damage at all! Ana blushes at the compliments.
She has owned the shop for 25 years, a family business she is keeping alive. In her small office I see pictures of her family, older generations, working in this same shop, details of how the shop grew over the years evident. Ana points at a picture of a young woman, sitting next to a sewing machine. It is her great-great-grandmother Elizabeth, the first to own the shop.
“We’re all a little bit torn, scared, frayed at the edges.”
As I listen to the story it becomes apparent that with the legacy of Elizabeth’s work came endless challenges through the work. Before the seamless mending, there were frayed edges.
Months after the shop opened, Elizabeth’s husband died in an accident. Her 5-year-old son died of an unknown fever. Her eldest daughter died during childbirth, and the baby did not survive. Still, Elizabeth’s faith kept her family strong. She would spend days sewing, always praying for one thing: “Mend me, dear God.”
“When I took over the shop, I named it,” says Ana, pointing to the sign at the door: Mended (as if the past tense speaks of an answered prayer for Elizabeth, for Ana, for me). “We are all a little bit torn, scared, frayed at the edges. God knows the need for a little reinforcement at the seams. He mends our lives. Gives us strength. We just have to pay attention to where He’s leading us.”
* * *
A day later I stand at the lectern and look out to the crowd, paying attention to where God has led me. “Guide my words, heavenly Father, that the frayed edges do not distract anyone. Mend me, dear God.”
Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.