about 35 years ago, a friend brought me to meet three ethiopians who were staying in los angeles.
they were three brothers. one was a bookkeeper by trade and the two others were younger and may have been in school.
the older brother is one of the most courageous persons i have met in my lifetime. he shared stories how he escorted his fellow beta israel members out of the region so that they could have safe passage to israel. he told of his numerous journeys across a desert. it was remarkable that one who had made it to safety and freedom would choose to go back to save others.
while in the united states, relief organizations provided the three brothers charitable donations which included clothing. at our meeting, a younger brother was wearing an obvious donation. it was a michael jackson “thriller” jacket. the shiny red leather jacket with the black lines forming a “v” shape. with the thriller music video so popular, clothing manufacturers mass produced jackets with in the “thriller” style.
while the stories of journey were amazing, i could not get the “thriller” jacket out of my mind. how was this young man was viewed when he was in public wearing the “thriller” jacket? would people simply dismiss him as a hardcore american michael jackson fan? would this jacket make others to believe that he was a mere american teen? how could a silly jacket turn someone into something he wasn’t. people seeing him might not choose to engage with him thinking he was a fanatic. if they did, they would miss out on these brothers’ amazing story of their freedom trek. they would miss out on discovering his older brother’s heroism.
in sum, as much as i am a believer that clothes can make a man, surely, there are exceptions to the rule.
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