Several years ago, I went to a workshop at the Quaker meetinghouse in Pasadena. A friend of mine was facilitating, and when she saw me, she immediately commented on the overalls I was wearing. "You always wear such interesting overalls!" she proclaimed.
Indeed, I was! Those who know me know that I always wear overalls and that many of them are "interesting." The ones I was wearing that day were a gorgeous light-weight pair, found at a thrift store, featuring a variety of patterns, including small flowers, in tan, black and red. (Unfortunately, they have since ripped quite a bit and are no longer wearable.)
I thanked my friend for her acknowledgment of my overalls and realized very soon afterwards that I should have said that they are my ministry.
Overalls as a ministry. What did I mean? How can the overalls that I wear everyday, along with, I later realized, the mis-matched Converse All Star high-tops that I wear from April through October (I wear Docs during the rest of the year) with rainbow laces, be, as I understand we Quakers define "ministry," a testimony or a mission? It has taken me years to figure that out.
For years, whenever I went home with a new outfit or a new hairstyle (long hair, braids, shaved head, etc.), my dad would always ask me if I was making a statement. Making a statement? No, no, I kept protesting, as if making a statement was the bad thing implied in my father’s query, I’m just wearing and doing what I like.
Who was I kidding? Why do I like wearing pretty overalls? There are many reasons, but my friend’s reaction that day - "You always wear such interesting overalls!" - basically summed them up. I liked it that she saw them.
I have said that I want people to notice my overalls, my shoes, my hair rather than my being in a wheelchair. I want to be "the guy in the cool bibs" rather than "the guy in the wheelchair" or at least "the guy in the overalls in the wheelchair." I also want it clear that I decide what I wear and how I have my hair and that some nurse or orderly isn’t just throwing some clothes on me.
More than that, I like being "interesting." If people are going to stare at me, why not make it interesting, even art-ful. Sure, I like it when people are amused, pleased and delighted by my colorful looks. I like brightening up their day. But I also like to wake people up, provoke them, get them to think. Like about what kind of a statement I might be making.