I didn’t even notice it at first, but when I looked down and saw the results of my actions, I let out a screech of alarm. I had been to Wal-Mart a couple of hours previously and was unloading the cleaning supplies that belonged in my bathroom. Since the mold in my shower has been kind of bugging me lately, Tilex was one of the items I had purchased. I wasn’t aware that the top was not on entirely securely, so when I made the motion to move it out of the bag and on to the shelf with the other cleaning stuff, some of it dripped on the new shirt I was wearing. Was I the only one on the planet who didn’t put together that the stuff is made almost entirely of bleach?
This new shirt was a gift from my friend Amy. Our church youth group had a retreat recently and she was one of the organizers. She brought me a shirt from the pile that was left over. And the shirts were so cool. Long sleeved and with the phrase Coram Deo which means “In the presence of God” in Latin. The fact that Amy brought me a shirt was really meaningful to me. Did I mention it was maroon?
So, when I spilled the bleach on it on the day I was wearing it for the first time I was upset. Checking in with mom confirmed that there was nothing I could do. Even her telling me that she knew how stuff like that happened didn’t make me feel much better. I knew it was a first world problem, but it upset me nonetheless. If something similar had happened to almost any other article of clothing in my closet I would hardly have cared. But this shirt was brand new and it was a gift and…
After a few hours, I was able to touch base with Amy and tell her what happened. “Don’t worry, Lorraine. We will figure it out.” I didn’t know quite what she meant at the time, but the next day, after asking me if it was okay to come over, Amy showed up at my door with some supplies and a plan. She happens to be great at looking at things outside the box. Out of a plastic bag, she took some lavender bleach and two bottles of fabric dye. One red and one purple. “Let’s see what we can do.” She said with a sly smile.
We filled the sink with water and poured in some of the bleach. Then we waited. In the meantime, we did what we have done what seems like a thousand times before. We had a delightful conversation filled with lots of laughter.
After about half an hour, we checked the shirt. It didn’t seem a whole lot lighter to either of us, but Amy suggested we wash it and dry it, which we did. “Just wait and see,” she said, “We don’t know how things are going to turn out yet.”
During our conversation, I found out that Amy had a pair of jeans that she wanted to lighten last summer. After watching several YouTube videos on how other people had done it, she went to work on her jeans, bleaching them several times until the result was exactly what she wanted. I was impressed. Amy is a go-getter.
When we pulled my shirt out of the dryer several minutes later, I couldn’t believe what I saw. My formerly maroon shirt that had been stained with bleach was a beautiful muted dusty rose color. And the bleach from earlier in the day had made the material softer so it would be more comfortable. The best part was that even when I was actively looking for it, I could no longer find the spot that had been stained with bleach. I loved the shirt even more than when I had first received it. We never even had to use the fabric dye. And Amy told me that she was going to bleach her shirt, so it looked like mine and we could both wear it to various church events. That idea made me smile.
My mind went back to the moment when I first spilled the bleach on my new shirt. I was so upset that it would never be the same. At that moment, it never occurred to me that event would lead to me liking the shirt even better than I did at first.
There are so many times when certain things happen, or I make some mistakes that I am disappointed, and I convince myself that something is really messed up. And sometimes that is true. Because life is messy and imperfect and so are the people who live it.
But there are other times when I must remind myself to take Amy’s advice: Just wait and see, we don’t know how things are going to turn out yet.