Buttons

This morning I sewed a button on my shirt. Actually, I replaced a broken button (now that I’ve written that, I’m not sure it’s more impressive). And it is the third button I’ve replaced since I found my sewing kit a few weeks ago (Yeah, really sounding less and less impressive with each keystroke). I can assure you, that button is not going anywhere. Unless, of course, it breaks again (well, I guess it would be the first time for that particular button, but I digress).

I think I should start every day by doing some task that is not particularly difficult but provides a sense of accomplishment. Sure, I could have worn the shirt with the half button, hoping no one would notice, or that they’d assume the button broke after I put on the shirt. But instead, I took a few minutes to replace the broken button, and am far prouder of that accomplishment than I should be.

While I was sewing on the button, I had a flashback to elementary school. It would have been third grade or earlier, because I still liked school then. That day we were learning about sewing. I’m pretty sure we had cardboard with holes punched in it, yarn, a rather large dull needle, and several items to attach to the cardboard by sewing. None of that is the important part of the story. I clearly recall one of my classmates saying, “Sewing is for sissies. I’m not going to do this. Men don’t need to sew.” The teacher, a superhero – as is every teacher I know – very patiently explained that sewing is a skill that everyone should acquire (though she probably used more 3rd grade friendly language). My classmate said, “I’m not going to need any of that sissy stuff. I’m going to be an Army man!” The teacher didn’t miss a beat, “Oh, you’re going to be in the Army?” “Yes, I am!” he proudly stated. “Do you think you’ll be good at it?” she asked. “I’ll be the best Army man ever!” “Are you going to be one of the lower ranking soldiers who does whatever he is told?” she continued. “I’m going to be the best Army man. I’m going to be in charge.” “Well,” she said, “are you going to be one of those soldiers who has a lot of stripes on his sleeve?” “I’m going to have stripes from here to here!” he replied, indicating that his stripes would go from his shoulder all the way to his elbow. “And just who do you think is going to sew those stripes onto your sleeve for you?” she asked. He thought about it for a moment, and then picked up his cardboard, yarn, and needle, and began sewing cardboard buttons on his cardboard shirt.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, but to all those teachers who take a few minutes every day to help a kid learn something important: thanks. And you are not just teaching that troublesome kid. You are teaching everyone in the room. So, Ms. Bradbury, wherever you are, thanks for your patience fifty-ish years ago. I’ve graduated from cardboard, have sewn on a few stripes, and can still manage a button or two when I set my mind to it.

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