Friday, July 2, 2010

The mending man. Friday, July 9, 2010.

“A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today I met a tailor who owns a tiny tailor shop. He began his craft in Italy, working in his father’s shop, when he was 10. He’s now 80. He works with a sewing machine that his father purchased second-hand in Italy. He hasn’t felt the need to replace it with a new model, because it works just fine.

Angelo doesn’t have a lot of customers anymore. Too many people buy cheap clothes at the big stores, he says, and just throw them away when they tear. So his shop has become a gathering place for elderly men in the neighborhood, who come by each day to play cards and chat about sports, politics and the weather.

Angelo’s wife passed away some years ago, and his children are grown and scattered across the country. Angelo’s tailor shop has exactly one employee: Angelo. He unlocks the doors at 6:30 a.m. each day and leaves at 5:30 p.m. If he’s ill, the doors stay locked.

I asked Angelo if he had plans to retire. He seemed truly shocked by the question. “Why would I retire?” he asked me. “I love to mend things. I love seeing something on a shelf and saying to myself, ‘I fixed that.’ My motto is, ‘I mend everything but broken hearts.’ And if someone gave me a few dollars, I’d try to mend one of those, too.”

Mother Nature will decide when Angelo’s store closes, he says. Yes, he literally expects to sew until he dies – and he’s fine with that. He’s never been on a fancy vacation, he says. He’s never had a boat or a nice car. “But I haven’t missed a thing,” he says. “I’m here for my mental health. I earn enough to keep the lights on. That’s good enough for me.”

Not everyone will pass away leaving a legacy of mending things. Angelo’s legacy will be greater than that of many rich people. What can you mend today?

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