Maggie asked me for some blue thread this morning. I got out my sewing kit and gave it to her. She proceeded to mend a rip in the towel she uses for swimming. Later, she showed me her work. “I’ve already put things away, but there is still a small hole here,” she said with some consternation. Then she pulled the towel out to look at it, “What do you think? I think it looks O.K. I don’t think people will notice.”
I smiled, “I think it looks fine. Good job.”
Frankly, I was really surprised. This was the second time in the last few weeks that she used my sewing kit to mend something. Even though I’ve taught her a little about sewing and we’ve made a couple of projects together, I’ve not really taught her much about mending. Actually, I would have been happy to buy her a new towel, and I probably will when summer items start appearing in our stores (in Texas that would probably be the end of January!). Still, I am very proud of her for “making do” with what she has. Since she is on swim team, she uses her blue towel at least five times a week, and if I remember correctly, she’s had the same one for two years now. Yes, she really does deserve a new towel.
Nevertheless, I realize that learning to make do with something you already have is a very important housekeeping skill, a very important life skill, perhaps even a very important spiritual discipline. When you decide to repair something you already have rather than getting something new, you are making a decision to be content. You are choosing to look at the value of something based on how useful it is, rather than what it says about you. Actually, making do with old items says a lot about a person. It says they are not concerned about material things, that they are content with themselves and not worried about what people think about them based on what they own. Perhaps, it is “not being conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a).
I’ve been amazed at how many of my friends do not know how to sew anything. As the child of parents who grew up in poor working class homes, I learned all of the skills they had been taught, survival skills for people who could not pay to have others do things for them. Useful skills that they could turn for profit. Two of my great-grandmothers earned a living by being seamstresses and millaners. Other female relatives were maids, factory workers and farmers. Several of them were widowed early and had to support their children. Due to economic hardship, one of my grandfathers spent his childhood in an orphanage, although his mother was alive. She couldn’t take care of him while working. Another grandfather was sent back to live on his grandparent’s farm while his sister was given up for adoption. Those were hard times. I am lucky that the memory of how to survive them has been passed down to me. In these times of plenty, however, I need to be very diligent to pass the same lessons down to my children. Maggie’s mending her towel reassures me that I am succeeding.
I’m proud of Maggie choosing a path that is different. By choosing to learn how to make things last, she will be prepared to live within her income, whether God calls her to be a missionary, a career woman or a home maker. Her husband will not have to worry that he won’t provide enough income to support the family. She will be able to “make do” and even save.
I hope I can remember to do the same when confronted with my own desire for a new______ (fill in the blank with whatever I’m burning to buy right now, for me now that is a kitchen remodeling). Making do, recycling, using up, doing without. In spite of the sometimes sporatic enthusiasm for “green products,” the idea of using up rather than buying something new seem foreign to Americans. In writing to the Romans of the first century, Paul was talking to people living in the richest place on earth at that time. It is to these wealthy Romans that he writes about needing to change their way of thinking, making their minds renewed. He ends with a promise that I need to remember. If we renew our minds and think differently than the culture around us, we can “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2b).
I want to “prove the will of God” to my children and neighbors. I want to show them not the selfishness that is natural to me, but the goodness of God. I guess I better wash down those kitchen cabinets yet again and hot glue those knobs back on. There are times to buy new towels, and rennovate kitchens, but there is not a time to allow discontent to enter my heart, and bitterness about circumstances to spoil my attitude. So I will seek to be content with what I have and where I am, to glorify in making do.