RITE OF PASSAGE: YSE
Did you ever have a favorite shirt? I’m not talking about the grease-stained T-shirt you wear to work on the car or the comfortable, ragged one you pull on before you head to the lake with your fishing buddies. Ladies, I don’t mean the sweatshirt with your children’s handprints across the front. Instead, I wonder if you have a shirt, dress or even a coat that makes you feel (as one of my sons might say) . . . fine. When you wear it, you know deep down inside that you look incredible. No matter what you’re doing, the way you feel when you wear that garment gives you an extra edge.
When I was a child, I didn’t have a favorite shirt. Not one, that is. Instead, I had . . . many. You see, I grew up in the days when most women made clothes for their children and grandchildren. My Grandma Scott was the seamstress of our family. She could sew anything from Jesus’ cloak to the most beautiful aprons I’ve ever seen. I still remember her smile as I modeled one of the Easter shirts she made me each year.
“Deanie,” she told me (my middle name is Dean), “Yellow does something special for you. I’m going to make sure you always have a nice yellow shirt.”
Grandma was true to her word. She had a busy life as the wife of the unofficial mayor of Miami, Mo. You have heard of Miami, Fla., and you may have heard of Miami, Okla.; but most of you have never heard of Miami, Mo. With a population of 158 (including a few stray dogs), it isn’t large enough to be called a city, town or village. Instead, Miami is a township, its north end wrapped by the lazy arms of the Missouri River.
My grandparent lived several miles outside of Miami. They raised Angus cows and hogs on their 127-acre farm. They also planted corn, wheat and soybeans depending on the season. Every month, they hosted a community square dance in their large parlor. Amidst everything else, Grandma made time to sew those yellow shirts. She delivered them with loving words that spoke of my worth and value. When Grandma sewed for me, she was showing me I mattered to God and to her. By adding encouraging words to her labor, she gave a gift of affirmation that lasted much longer than any of the shirts. I call this a YSE (Yellow Shirt Experience).
I don’t imagine there are many grandmas who make shirts for their grandchildren today, and fewer grandchildren who would wear them if they did. But we can all give a YSE to the young people in our lives. Instead of complaining about what they do (or don’t do), share positive words about who they are. Try this with your children, grandchildren or young people at church, in your neighborhood, at your favorite restaurant, where you shop . . . you get the picture. Get to know the things that make them unique. Then take time to look them in the eye, say their names and share something you appreciate about their lives.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen young people go from troubled to terrific because of the positive words someone has spoken over them. We all tend to rise to the level of others’ expectations. And we are much more likely to achieve greatness when someone we know believes we’re . . . great.
As I grew to adulthood, I had another interesting YSE. The first time I wore a yellow shirt after my wife and I were married, she sweetly told me that yellow was not my best color after all. From that day to this, she’s kept my closet a yellow-free zone. After all, she loves me and wants to keep me looking . . . fine.
Not so long ago, though, my wife gave me a special YSE. I was shopping the clearance rack at my favorite department store and found a beautiful yellow shirt for only $9. As I held it up, I’m sure she saw the look of longing in my eyes.
“Go ahead, try it on,” she told me.
I practically ran to the dressing room.
My sweet wife not only let me buy that yellow shirt but also wear it. When I left for Panama a few weeks ago, I stepped onto the plane knowing I was the sharpest guy on the flight. That day, I wore much more than a yellow shirt. I was clothed in the love and encouragement of my heavenly Father and the people who love me most. And that kind of fashion always leaves you feeling . . . fine.