Why Do You Worry about Clothes?

Sometimes in the mornings, I ask myself, “Did I wear this last time?” When I worked in an office, I kept better track of what I wore so that I could space out the outfits and not repeat them too often. Because I work at home now, I don’t keep track. However, if I go to three or four monthly meetings during a season, I’d prefer not to wear the same thing every single time. Maybe that’s just me.

I recall that some years ago I was wearing a new outfit when I ran into someone who was a passing acquaintance from my college days. We spoke. A while later, I was wearing this same outfit when I ran into that acquaintance again. I thought to myself, with curious acknowledgement, “I think I was wearing this last time I saw her.” The reason I remember the series of greetings is because that same season, I ran into her one more time, and I was wearing that exact same outfit. It’s just a bit of minutia that sticks in my head when other things – like “why did I come into this room?” – are harder to track.

Sometimes I tie an emotional memory to the outfits I wore. For example, during the phone call when I found out my father died, I was in my office at One Court Square, and I was wearing a red shirt dress with black and gold buttons. Try as I might, I was never comfortable in that dress again.

When my mother got sick, I realized that she didn’t usually see me when I was dressed for work; she only saw me in my off time. I thought she would like it if I presented a sense of well-being as I came for visits. Instead of changing clothes before I left town after work, I would wear my office clothes home to Alex City. My mother could say, “You look nice today,” and I could say, “Thank you,” then go change my clothes.

Yet after her last summer, I had a feeling that when summer rolled around again, I would not want to wear many of the clothes in which I had felt so much distress. By then, I was working at Huntingdon College part-time and working at home part-time – my transition in self-employment. It was like when you don’t pour new wine into old wineskins; things had changed, and the clothes didn’t feel right.

My president at Huntingdon, Wanda Bigham, had heard a phrase she liked, and it was something she wanted for students – that they be able to “manage their own well-being.” We talked about that phrase for a speech she was giving, and I saw it as an appealing goal.

Sometimes clothing and other things are part of a presentation of well-being, though the inside tells the real story. The externals might give you a lift, but they don’t change what is within.

To me, well-being is an attitude, a sense of perspective. It’s not about reaching a place of problem-free days, but facing problems with a general belief that things will be OK. If it’s a valley, you’ll get through it. If it’s darkness, light is coming. If it’s a downhill ride, you can hang on. If you’re out of gas, you can coast to a stop and rest. Or if the day seems to be clicking along quite well, you can step out and enjoy.

This attitude is more than self-talk, though. It has to be founded on something real, a belief that holds up, or else it can falter at any time. For most people I know, the love of family and friends, a sense of belonging and purpose, and a faith that undergirds the journey are all elements of this reality. But not everybody has those resources.

A couple of years ago, I heard a speaker, Liz Huntley, a successful attorney, Auburn trustee and author of More than a Bird. Years earlier, as an African-American child growing up in desperate circumstances in Clanton, Ala., she had dressed in new clothes and rode a school bus across town to her first day of first grade. With a racing heart accompanying her into an unknown that she traveled alone, she was able to figure out the room where she belonged by the words she had learned to read in a pre-K class and by listening to what the other adults told their children.

It was on Liz to manage her own well-being through childhood, and you can imagine how ill-equipped she was to do so. Over time, she would find places of refuge in the intervening kindness of teachers and church members. And at age 8, she heard the verses in Matthew about how God takes care of the birds of the air, and Jesus asks, “Are you not better than they?”

This was a thought that intruded time, space and circumstance to shed a light beyond what she was experiencing. The idea that she was more than a bird was a fact she could understand and internalize. And that truth led to her belief that, whatever happened from here, God would take care of her.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26 (NIV)

The human heart has amazing levels of resilience, especially when nuggets of eternal truth find their way within. As you go out today, I hope you will embrace a sense of well-being and enjoy your magnificent journey.

— Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 7