Are you going out like that?
Always, just as I was about to head out the door to go partying with my friends, my father would ask me that question. That’s all he had to say because I knew what he meant: Are you going out like that, wearing that wrinkled shirt? My answer didn’t matter, because before I could say yes or no, he was already taking out the iron from the coat closet, draping the old white blanket over the kitchen table, and a minute later, I would be standing barechested beside him in the kitchen as he ironed the wrinkles off my shirt.
To my father, if you walked around in public with a wrinkled shirt, you were telling the world that you were lazy, that you were uneducated, that you were irresponsible — whether you were any of those things or not. My father was a firm believer in first impressions, and for him, it was absolutely impossible to make a good impression on anybody (especially a girl you might want to date) if you were wearing a wrinkled shirt.
I do all of the ironing for my family now, which I honestly enjoy doing. There’s something inexplicably satisfying about taking a crumbled mess of a shirt and making it whole again with a little heat, steam, and pressure. Give me a shirt wrinkled like a raisin, and I’ll give it back to you smooth as ice.
But by the end of the day, or the end of the car ride to work, the wrinkles are back on the shirt. Despite what the tag says, there is no such thing as a wrinkle-free shirt.
The same is true with our lives. There are wrinkles that we can’t iron away — at least not always, or easily. Like health issues, money problems, or broken relationships. And yet, we can’t hide inside all day; we have to go out like that, with those wrinkles in our lives.
My father was wrong. It’s not the wrinkles we wear that create a first impression, but our response to them. I learned that lesson from my 13-year old daughter, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a couple of years ago.
This past weekend, we celebrated her bat mitzvah, and she stood confidently in front of 500+ people at the service and gave a sermon comparing the story of Joseph in the Bible (who was thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by his brothers, and was later falsely accused of rape and thrown into jail) with her own story. Here are some of her words:
My personal story is an example of how being filled with hope really makes a difference. I remember the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes like it was yesterday. My mom noticed that I was having unusual symptoms, so I went to see a doctor. While there, I got many tests done. I received the news shortly after that I would have diabetes for the rest of my life. I was in shock. I mean, get this: I had to take at least 6 shots a day, and I had to prick my finger and test my blood sugar before every meal I ate. I not only had to change my everyday life, but I had to be aware of every activity I did, and every food I ate. Currently I have an insulin pump, which is a small device that is attached to me, that constantly gives me insulin. This is a much better alternative than taking shots in my opinion. I learned, though, that ignoring the problem will only harm me. Accepting the issue and just moving on seems to work out better in the end.
Accepting problems and struggles, though, takes a lot of strength, and that is where I think G-d comes in. On my first night with diabetes I was terrified. Terrified! I had no idea what was going to happen. I was lost and scared, and I felt all alone. I was so scared that I would die. Looking back now, I realized that that is how Joseph must have felt during his first night in jail. Lost, scared, and alone. We both found ourselves stuck in some unknown territory, not knowing how to get out. Remembering that horrible first night now, I believe it was the only time I became outwardly upset with diabetes. Though I didn’t realize it back then, I realized that it is because I didn’t give up hoping, I tried to stay positive. Just like Joseph did. That is what G-d does. He picks us up when we fall down, and gives us strength to keep going.
We iron the wrinkles on our shirts with heat, steam, and pressure. We iron the wrinkles in our lives with hope, love, and optimism.
My iron broke the other day, so I had to leave the house with a wrinkled shirt. I felt a little uncomfortable leaving the house like that, and I could almost hear my father asking from above, Are you going out like that?
Si, Papi, I am, and I closed the door behind me.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and to everyone in our lives who fill us with hope, love, and optimism to help us smooth out the wrinkles in our lives.