Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mike's Ugly Shirt

Michael recently started a new office job at a company called the English Language and Culture Institute. He has really enjoyed it so far and hopes to continue working there after his 30 day probation period.
This morning he came into the kitchen wearing a disgusting, bright-purple, silk button-up shirt that one of his brothers handed down to him years before. I had scoffed at it earlier when looking through the vast sea of used and unwanted clothes that haunts our closet. I thought that maybe he wore it during a play in high school and that gave it sentimental value enough to keep it, unused, forever. Or perhaps he bought it while on his mission in South Korea, making it indefinitely valuable. I didn't actually think he would ever wear it.
Un-tucked over blue sweat pants, the shirt was halfway between nightgown material and something to be worn in a horror movie. I made several silly but disapproving remarks like "another piece for the little shirt of horrors?" while serving him french toast.
However, from Michael's point of view, he was going to work at an institution where young students would be coming from all over the world to learn better English skills and take classes at the nearby university. He thought that the bright shirt would be friendly for individuals daunted by the experience of being so far away from home. In addition, the shirt was very comfortable and matched the tie he'd found.
Tucked into nice black pants and accented by a thin, dark tie, the shirt didn't look half bad. In fact, it looked pretty good.
I realized that there is a wonky but true metaphor here. Personalities can be compared to button-up shirts. Some are bright with images of palm trees or Hawaiian flowers. Others are solid white shirts sewn with care and pressed neatly to prevent wrinkles. Michael's "personality shirt" just happens to be an awkward, bright purple color and made out of silk. But I shouldn't try to change that. It's who he is; bright, happy, and friendly. Although his personality doesn't exactly emulate great business skills or prestige, his personality was, and still is, attractive to me. If I forced him into a stiff, bleach-white collar with no wrinkles or fun, it would not be the same Michael that I love so dearly. It taught me an important lesson: a man is not truly measured by his ability to do well in the business world, but by his ability to enjoy life and fill the measure of his creation; whatever that may be.