Experience sounds like: “the only reason I know what is wrong right now and how to fix it is because I have had it happen to me many times before!” Last week I really put my sewing experience to the test in our second beginner’s sewing class at my church. The main skills we were focusing on were interfacing and zippers.
There were six sewing machines set up with seven people working away. On occasion one machine would stop and there would be silence or a set of frustrated exclamations expressed from the participant using it. The Pfaff machines with top loading bobbins never had a problem (and I had to deal with slight sewing machine envy). I would go over and help troubleshoot the problem and within a minute the motor would start whirring again with the sound of a box pouch taking shape.
Every machine and every participant in the sewing class had obstacles to overcome that are common to the craft – needles breaking, thread catching, sewing wrong edges together. Each participant had unique personal obstacles as well. My job was to teach people to sew regardless of the challenges that would be presented. My weakness is that I often think I can cut corners because I have been doing this so long. When it comes to putting in zippers, cutting corners for me is not a good idea, ever! I am good friends with my stitch ripper (a.k.a. seam ripper). Others had challenges that I will likely never have to face – ones that would stop many people from even trying.
I’ve started going to the gym … for Zumba mostly. When I stay around for a bit of time in the jacuzzi I look up and think about the words written on the wall: Excellence is not doing one thing really well. It is doing everything superbly. We don’t reach excellence because challenges don’t exist. We reach it because we are determined that challenges will not defeat or define us.
As teacher it was my job to help people overcome the obstacles they faced. It meant problem solving with them so that they wouldn’t get discouraged and give up. It meant encouraging them, letting them own their mistakes and successes, giving evidence that they could trust my instructions and creating an emotional environment that inspired risk.
When the bags were being turned right side out at the very end there were spontaneous (and loud!) squeals of genuine delight accompanied with little dances of joy. You would never know that most people had never put in a zipper before or had just begun sewing a short while ago. It wasn’t just about the sewing though. It was about the sense of community we developed while doing something we love … or are learning to love. Success.