I grew up wearing hand-me-downs—and all I had were three older sisters.
That’s a joke, because I am the oldest of four boys. But I did spend the majority of my childhood wearing someone else’s clothes. Back then, hand-me-downs were a way of life. Few Americans had the money to buy new clothes for their children. If someone at church had older children, the clothing they outgrew was passed down to the Moore boys or anyone else who could use it. It was a great day when a new bag of hand-me-downs arrived at our door. We had no shame in wearing someone else’s castoffs; in fact, we thought it was cool.
When our children came along, my wife and I did the same thing as my parents. We gave away the clothes our children had outgrown to another family whose children could wear them. Now that I think about it, our generation was recycling long before it became politically correct.
This past week, my oldest son, Jeremiah, came to help me pick up our student missionaries at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. After a full day of transporting, he asked me a simple question, “Dad, I’m on my way to Goodwill to drop off some shirts. Would you like to see if there are any you could use?”
Of course I wanted to look at his shirts. He wears much nicer clothes than I do. I went to the back of his car and found a stack of beautiful T-shirts and polos. I don’t mean everyday, run-of-the-mill polos. These were top-notch dress shirts . . . just my size, too.
That day, I identified some differences between hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups. The first is the quality. Hand-me-down shirts usually show signs of wear like a missing button or a small stain. But my generation didn’t care about these minor imperfections. We considered a shirt we hadn’t owned before a new one. But the hand-me-up generation seems to want more and better things than their parents. They have bigger homes, drive newer cars and wear nicer clothes than we do.
I am starting to learn that if you live long enough, your children become a blessing to you. I gave my sons hand-me-downs as they were growing up and now they are giving the old man (as they lovingly refer to me) their hand-me-ups.
Another difference between hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups is quantity. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a closet full of clothes. When it came to handing down my clothes to my brothers, the selection was, you might say, less than stellar. We four boys shared one bedroom, and all our clothes fit in one tiny closet with plenty of space in between.
Today, my children have entire rooms full of clothes. The other day, my oldest son told me he had 140 T-shirts and more than 100 collared shirts in his closet. That’s why he decided to give some away. If I added up every item of clothing—clean and dirty—I own, it wouldn’t come close to the number of T-shirts my son has.
But I am learning to embrace this new and magical hand-me-up stage of life in which I receive hand-me-ups from my sons. As I type this article, I am wearing one of my brand-new, hand-me up T-shirts.
Life is a circle: we get, we give and we get. When we are young, we were totally dependent on someone to take care of our basic needs. Eventually, we became self-reliant and could take care of ourselves. After that, we became the person on whom others depended. And if we live long enough, we will move into that final stage of life where most of us need someone else to take care of us.
Of course, I may have already reached that point. If I forget my glasses, I can’t read the print on this page. At those times, I like to joke that I have my “seeing eye wife” with me. But the stage where you must depend on others to assist you shouldn’t hold any shame. Even Jesus—the Holy Son of God, the Creator of all things that exist, the One who raised Lazarus from the dead and walked on the water—needed someone to help Him carry the cross.
That thought gives me great comfort. After He saw Jesus in this weak, disoriented state, one of the soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into service to carry the cross. At one time or another, we all need either a hand-me-down or a hand-me-up.
I forgot to tell you one thing. My son bought many of the shirts he gave me at . . . Goodwill.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, email walker@awestar/prg. [jpme 800/AWESTAR(293-7827.