Several years ago, my wife purchased an authentic black leather biker jacket for me – from a biker leather store in Daytona Beach, no less. It’s as authentic a “biker” jacket, as any biker jacket can be! I love it, and I love wearing it!
When I wear it, I feel tougher, and more intimidating. When I wear it, I feel like a “legitimate” biker. When I wear it, I feel a little “bad,” in the “good” kind of way.
But, I have another black leather jacket, that makes me feel something completely different.
About five years ago, shortly after buying my bike, I didn’t own a black leather jacket, and desperately wanted one. If you own a bike, you just have to own one! But, at that point, I couldn’t afford it.
One day, I stopped at a large garage sale. It was quickly apparent that a group of adult children were helping their elderly mother “down-size,” by selling loads of the house’s contents. Among the items for sale, I noticed several racks of men’s clothing, which I immediately assumed might have belonged to a deceased husband/father. Hanging on the end of the rack was a black leather jacket. It wasn’t a biker jacket. But, at that point, I wasn’t picky.
As I tried it on, I noticed an elderly woman, whom I presumed to be the mother/widow, watching me. I was pretty sure I was trying on her husband’s jacket, and worried that she might not be too happy about it.
But, it fit! And, they only wanted $20! I couldn’t not buy it!
As I was paying for the jacket, the woman – the widow of the jacket’s former owner – looked me in the eye, and said, “That jacket was worn by a good man!” She really emphasized the “good man” part!
I can’t begin to describe the feeling I had in that moment. I still feel it now. I wondered, “Am I worthy to wear this jacket? Am I good enough?” I didn’t even know this woman, or her deceased husband, but I felt like buying the jacket – AND WEARING IT! – carried an obligation, a duty, a commitment to treat his jacket with the very utmost and highest respect!
No, it was more than that. Though I’m sure he wasn’t perfect, and that his grieving widow might have been a little biased, in that moment, staring deeply into my eyes, she convinced me that her husband was a saint! “That jacket was worn by a good man!” Somehow, I knew, and I know, that he really was a good man, and that wearing his jacket carries the expectation I’ll strive to be a good man too.
Though it may sound silly, I feel an obligation to be worthy of that jacket!
To this day, I can’t wear it without seeing that woman’s eyes, and hearing her voice – “That jacket was worn by a good man!” – and knowing that I’ve made a commitment to wear it as well as I can. Though I never met the man, and I’ll likely never see his widow again (in fact, I doubt she even remembers the moment I’ve described), he’s set a standard of charactwer for me to strive for. When I wear his jacket, I want to be a good man too.
Someday, when I’m gone, when the jacket passes on to someone else, I hope someone can still say,“That jacket was worn by a good man!”
But, my other black leather biker jacket? Not so much. It’s just cool.