As I emulate Cinderella and head off to this year's ball, I will leave a post for the sharing in my absence. First, let me say that I am not the ball type. I would rather be hiking mountains than sipping tea. But, I do not always get to choose. As one of the more visible leaders of our organization (combination of high post and big mouth), I cannot ditch the annual ball, much as I would like to.
Last year I wrote a post that garnered a fair amount of comments and discussion about my dilemma in what to wear. (I had actually been able to avoid earlier balls for acceptable reasons, but I had no acceptable reason last year, and so I appeared upon demand.) I could not bring myself to spend hundreds (or dozens) of dollars on the required attire: tuxedo or gown. There was so much more I could do of value with that kind of money, and there was also that Franciscan vow of poverty. So, I decided to wear a dress from Jordan that I had purchased there for $5 and that would look dressy in the USA although I had some serious doubts when I arrived and started to mix in among the tuxedos and ball gowns. (You can read the post here: VIP or VOP or Both? It includes a larger discussion of the decision-making process and results).
The most evident result was the reputation I gained by wearing ethnic dress. Everyone who did not attend the ball heard about it. This year, a few weeks ago, several people who had been to their home countries in the last few months brought me local dresses, asking me to wear them in honor of their culture. (I ensured that they had bought them for $25 or less, the ethical limit our organization places on gifts from employees to supervisors.) I understood the intent. They were not bribes; they just wanted to feel that their senior supervisor respected and even liked their cultures. Of course, I do. I have been to most of their countries and speak most of their languages. Wherever I am, I try to blend and often succeed. I felt honored by the requests. The situation, however, contains its own dilemma: which of the six ethnic dresses and four ethnic shawls should I wear?
Actually, I have decided on none of them. I will wear that $5 Jordanian dress again. Then, I will find other occasions to honor all those who have requested it through the gift of their ethnic attire.
Interestingly, I may have started something. This year's ball announcement again listed tuxedos and gowns as acceptable attire but added "or culturally appropriate attire." Never think that one person cannot create change!
[Note: Image above drawn by Tom Dubois -- click here to see more of his beautiful art work, which is for sale.]