This message was written and delivered by Debbie Reese.
I’m a high school teacher to students that want to be teachers (it is a pretty great job). Every year my students participate in a competition and I make them dress according to a dress code. They have to wear a button up shirt, black dress pants and black dress shoes.
And to be clear: these are not the competition’s rules. They’re mine. This is Mrs. Reese’ dress code. My students hate it.
Dress code rules! Did you have these when you were in school or currently at school or your workplace? Everyone hates them right? Or at least the ones that have to follow them do.
A few years ago my competition dress code did not exist. I just asked my students to dress in professional dress, and they all followed suit. But one day of injustice to my students changed all of that. We were at a state competition and several students from not just my high school, but two others from my district had won top awards at the state level – this is an incredible feat to accomplish.
While these young ladies were in line to walk across the stage an adult in charge stopped them and told them they were unable to walk because they didn’t meet their state organization dress codes standards; one dress was not far enough down the young ladies calves, another dress was too tight, a young lady’s shoulders could be seen with her cut out arms and another young lady’s pants were too short TOO SHORT. All of the students looked professional, but another adult was going to decide that the lengths of their professional dress was not meeting their dress code standards.
My students called me from the stage crying that they were not able to walk across and receive their award. They were devastated they couldn’t walk to receive the award for the projects they had worked eight months on. Mrs. Reese suddenly became Mamma Bear Reese. No one was going to take away from our students what they had earned because of another person’s personal opinion.
My teacher and momma bear brain went into full effect to come up with a plan that our students would walk across the stage! Those students along with the others that were not receiving awards that day ran into the restroom, hiding behind the stalls and clothes were being thrown over and under stall doors! We were sharing our dresses, skirts, shirts and even my own pants ended up on a student and I had her “too short” skirt on!
Why? Why did I do this? Why did I jump into a bathroom stall and exchange my pants for a skirt with a student (poor kid can you imagine having to do that with one of your high school teachers)?
It was love! I wasn’t in a position to change the dress code. And I wasn’t in charge of interpreting the vague standards – what counts as too tight or too short?
But I wasn’t going to do nothing. Because I love my students. And that day, my love could be measured. In skirts and pants.
Ever since that fateful weekend, I’ve implemented Mrs. Reese’ Dress Code. Why? Because I love them. My dress code is a public expression of my love for my students. I will never let another student feel the way my former students felt every again!
I share that story because we know that sometimes love requires us to step up, to step out of our comfort zone. I want to ask the question today: “What does love look like IN PUBLIC?”
Real Love is measurable and tangible. Real love makes a difference. You can see it “in public”. That’s something we believe here at Catalyst because we see it in Jesus’ love for us.