Friday, November 30, 2007

The Itching Label

A trend began a few years ago to remove labels from men's undershirts and T-shirts and replace them with information printed directly onto the fabric. The reason for this change is simple: some labels cause irritation. Comfort rules in the garment marketplace. The older I get, the more I appreciate the philosophy of Gilda Radner, an original member of the Saturday Night Live cast: "I wear what doesn't itch!" I am a sworn Brooks Brothers man, and I was impressed that even the Brothers Brooks surrendered to this great idea.

There are life labels that make me itch, too, only the switch-out pattern has been reversed. I have gone from a very comfortable label--"happily married"--to several uncomfortable ones, like "widowed,” “single parent,” “grieving," and the list goes on. It itches even to write these words.

Now, I understand that my comfort is not the highest priority in life. As a matter of fact, in this new normal of my existence I have come to expect discomfort, and I'm even somewhat comfortable with it. But I appreciate people who are like the new printed labels in my Brooks Brothers undershirts. They try to remove the itch. They refuse to summarize life with an easy and itchy label. They are careful not to label the hurting as grieving or dysfunctional or any other tag. They look beyond the label and see what Jesus saw when he first laid eyes on the woman carrying a water bottle coming from the Samaritan city of Sycar. Her garment was full of itching labels, but he refused to see her that way.

This is where I have been most unlike Jesus. Labels are a way of life for me that I now see differently. Labels are not evil or completely unnecessary, but they can itch. Believe it or not, a small itch can sometimes make a big difference.

Bless someone today by removing the itching label from the garment you wrap around them in your mind. Smile and just show them that you love them and accept them. Who knows--you may be on the verge of setting a captive free.

Ed Litton

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