Once upon a time I had a jacket. This thing was sweeter than tiramisu. My treasure was discovered at a yard sale in West Virginia around the age of 14. It cost exactly one quarter. The color was a camel tone (which looks horrible on my skin in hindsight). Up each sleeve were burgundy stripes. The collar itself was that same burgundy; but one side said “Dr. Pepper” while the other side said “I’m a Pepper” in white lettering. It seemed as though this jacket was pretty retro and hadn’t had much use… until I came along.
Was I really “a Pepper”? No, I don’t think so. But I was a very prideful teenager who thought she was better than everyone else when she had this Dr. Pepper jacket on.
I mean, come on! There were cool factors all over the place! 1) No one else that I knew owned it. 2) Exclusive as it was, I got a heck of a deal. 3) It was quirky.
I discovered a new side of Suzy in that jacket. A superior Suzy. A confident Suzy.
No wait, there was a fourth thing that made that jacket different: 4) I wasn’t willing to share it. My BFF, Katie, and I swapped clothes all the time. Our wardrobes might as well have had revolving doors. Additionally, her sis and my sis participated in the swapping. We had more than enough clothes to go around! Yet I never wanted to part with the Dr. Pepper jacket. I couldn’t stand the thought of someone else wearing it and hogging all my cool.
From the age of 14 to the age of about 18, my life perspective began to mature and God slowly began to chip away at my pride and arrogance. I began to love others more than myself. I began to love Jesus more than myself. I began to see that a life of selflessness was going to be more meaningful than a life that was catered to satisfy my every whim. But if you stacked all that maturity up against this Dr. Pepper jacket… Well, the Dr. Pepper jacket was the giant windstorm that blew down those noble notions. It seemed as though all that maturity was a house of straw built on a sandy foundation.
In constant competition with myself, I hate when the worldly me beats out the quiet, humble me. It was apparent that while I owned a few nice possessions, I did not, in fact, own the jacket. The jacket owned me. Here I was, 18 years old, willing to sacrifice all my worldly comforts to be a missionary in northern Africa, teaching English as a second language… in my Dr. Pepper jacket.
And then it hit me: I don’t like owning things that I’m not willing to give away. I don’t like feeling that proud and impressed with myself. I don’t like valuing an article of clothing more than I value the life of a friend or stranger. I don’t mind owning possessions; but I hate when they own me. And I know that they own me when I’m not willing to give them away.
You know, at the end of my life I’m not going to be taking all this crap with me. It’d be a shame to regret not warming the back of a woman who is more disadvantaged than I just because I valued my cool more than the difference that gesture could have made for her. It’d be a shame to spend more energy protecting something that moths can destroy than to spend that same energy caring for the souls of others, which moths can’t destroy.
So I had this friend who was moving to Canada and I was sure I’d never see her again. So I forced her to take the Dr. Pepper jacket and get it as far away from me as possible.
Ten years ago I gave Canada my cool. They’re so lucky.