Humanity can make you lose heart these days, which is why I prize a 3” x 2.5” swatch of pink fabric given to me by a man I’ve never seen.
When my decades-old sewing machine broke down last summer, replacing it was low priority because I’m no seamstress and really only used it for mending or making mittens. The reason I can even make mittens is because someone taught me, for free. She’s one of the people my pink swatch now represents.
My husband and daughter tried to fix my sewing machine, earning pink swatch status, even though the swatch did not yet exist. My husband planned to surprise me with a new machine for Christmas, but knowing surprises usually backfire with me, he enlisted the help of a coworker who advised what kind to get and where. That purchase didn’t work out, but the coworker became part of my pink swatch saga, along with the company that accepted the return.
I found a sturdy old machine at a thrift store. We usually don’t buy used electrical items, but it seemed a propitious purchase for $20. The coworker agreed, threading it and recommending someone who could give it a good oiling and going over for a reasonable $50. We were still far ahead of the price of the new machine we’d returned, so it seemed a sensible investment.
On his way to pick up our daughter from the airport, my husband dropped off the machine for servicing, figuring we’d pick it up when we came through again to return her to college. After an unanticipated delay, my husband was told that our machine didn’t work and I started getting irritated, even though the man said he wouldn’t charge us $50 for the broken machine.
COVID-19 was now making daily headlines. Although it was an extra trip to a neighboring town pick up our useless machine, we combined it with a shopping excursion and brought along a few of our organically raised onions to pay the man in part. I waited in the car, since we were observing social distancing by then. This time, my husband was not welcomed into the man’s house but returned from the garage with the machine and a pink swatch with stitch samples demonstrating that it now worked. During the extra elapsed time, the man had been inspired to do some tinkering. He accepted his $50 and the onions, too.
I was happy but busy under lockdown and didn’t touch the machine until I needed to fix a mattress pad. Soon I discovered something was missing and my machine didn’t work at all.
I hurled the swatch, ready to cut our losses, but my husband called the man and decided to drive back to his house, since one of the missing parts had to be installed. The man offered to refund us $10 for driving expenses.
I started sewing the mattress pad by hand and didn’t try the machine my husband brought home until my hand was sore. The machine worked perfectly. I finished in minutes what would’ve taken me days. The old commercial-grade workhorse was so well made, it could take on the bulkiest seam with no problem. I had myself a machine that could sew thick woolen mittens and anything else I threw at it. I retrieved the pink swatch and put it in my Bible.
My swatch is the perfect size for covering lines and columns as I work on memorizing, but that cheery patch of pink also reminds me that even strangers can still be trusted sometimes. It reminds me of the lady who supplies us with homegrown chickens and gave us masks for our whole family without laughing at the pitiful ones I made with my wonderful sewing machine. It brings to mind the neighbors who drove by and left eggs in our mailbox, not even knowing that we had just run low. It helps me remember these pink people and others, as rioting rocks our nation.
One man may steal, kill and destroy. Another gives life in abundance. Long ago I learned that God is good, but I finger the fabric every day to remind myself that even now, people can be, too.