International Sweatpants Day is marked on January 21 every year, and I’m going to celebrate it by wearing my sweatpants that day. First let me tell you about the history of those comfy pants and then why I care .
Until I researched this post, I didn’t know this, but the first pair of sweatpants was introduced in the 1920s by Émile Camuset, the founder of Le Coq Sportif. The first sweatpants to be made were simple knitted gray jersey pants that allowed athletes to stretch and run comfortably. Since then, traditionally, sweatpants have been ash-gray in color, but over the recent years, companies like Nike, Champion, Under Armor & others have put considerable effort into making them more attractive while at the same remaining just as comfortable as the original ones. Despite the fact sweatpants were made for exercise, people wear them for the exact opposite reason, to relax!
And I will admit, when I come into the office alone to get some work done, it’s going to be in jeans or sweats. Thanks to virtual hearings being the norm these days, I can get away with a bunch more casual clothes than any time in my career. But again, by now, you have to be saying, again, Kurt why this blog.
Well I want to tell you a story, it’s about my wife’s former church and a person who attended there. But it also applies to our clients. In case you don’t know my wife is a United Methodist Pastor. She currently serves as a Spiritual Care Coordinator or some call them Chaplains for Hospice. But when we first met she was serving a small, but growing church in Findlay, just under an hour south of Toledo.
At the time, she was sent there to turn the church around. It, like most mainline churches had been declining for years. But she was sent it to turn the tide and she did at that church and her next one as well. Methodist pastors usually move around a lot, but because of me, she was to stay within an hour or so of Toledo.
Thanks to the good work she and the church were doing, she started to attract people who didn’t have a church home. One of them we’ll call Roger. Roger came to church every week for a time, wearing sweatpants, would stay for the small group, Sunday school class, and then leave every week. Finally, I got the courage to ask him why he didn’t stay.
He explained that he didn’t think it was right for him to come into the service in sweatpants and right now, that’s all he had. This was not a church where everyone dressed up. Sure there were older members of the congregation in fancier clothes, but lots of people in khakis and the like. I offered to get into my sweats, as the pastor’s new spouse who was generally well liked and sit with him. I told him no one would say a word and he’d see we were OK with that. But he never did.
Not too many weeks after he died. And we found out a bit about him that we never knew. We knew he had battled some dark times, and struggled with substance abuse. But what we never knew, until his family, who had just started to reconnect with him before he died, told us was Roger was not a poor, addicted man all of his life.
Before he had been a successful CEO, who yes owned fancy suits and lived in a large home. But things crumbled and he literally lost everything, including the clothes on his back. So at the end, he truly only had sweatpants. He died never feeling like he could be a part of our church fully. And I can tell you that truly opened my eyes. If anyone needed that church fully it was him.
I can tell you that Cheri has served or we have attended four churches since then. And I make it a point every so often to dress in sweats, jeans, a t-shirt or the like. Why? Because I want the other Rogers of the world to feel at home.
We spend all day around here helping people who are in dark places financially, and we don’t judge you by what clothes you show up in. I have had clients who were housing insecure or flat out homeless. I have had people shake my hand with greasy, dirty hands, wearing dirty coveralls, etc. And a few clients who showed up for any appointment in sharp suits.
Just know, we treat you all the same around here. Because you deserve that. When clients talk to me at the beginning calling me Mr. Young or Sir, I quickly say thank you for the respect. But I am Kurt, and I want you to get used to a guy with a suit being on your side.
So this Sunday, I’ll be in my sweats for church. And I’m pretty sure my pastor and my wife will be OK with that.
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