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Would You Wear the Shirt?

Are you willing to stand apart?

Several years ago, my daughter was faced with a choice. At the end of the previous school year, she was selected for a leadership class based upon the recommendations of her teachers. As a father, I was very proud.

When the leadership class met for the first time, the teacher handed out t-shirts she wanted the class to wear the next day. The shirts said, "Dude, be nice."

Middle schools specifically, and the world in general, could use a little more "nice" these days. But my daughter didn't want to wear the shirt, opting instead to put it in her backpack to possibly put on once at school. When I asked her about it, she equivocated but eventually said it may be embarrassing to be one of a relatively few number of kids to wear the shirt at school. It would separate her from the crowd. I asked her whether she thought the sentiment was a good message and she did. I asked her why she thought she was selected for the leadership course and she thought it was because she is a nice person who tries to do the right thing. I asked her what she thought the right thing was to do in this situation and she replied that she didn't know. I could tell she was afraid of being teased by kids not in the leadership class.

In some sense, it's just a t-shirt. But we are trying to teach our kids that people of character must often be men and women apart from the crowd who will choose the hard right over the easy wrong and live with the consequences. On any given day, we have a choice to "wear the shirt" or wait to see what the crowd does.

I told her I wouldn't tell her what to do but she should make the decision before she left the house because if she waited to see who else was wearing the shirt before deciding whether to put it on, she was being a follower not a leader.

I left the house before she made her decision so I didn’t know what choice she made. But it made for an interesting family dinner discussion that night.

Would you have worn the shirt?


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