Goodwill to All

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
Mark Twain

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Mark Twain was right. Naked people have little or no influence on society. That’s why the Goodwill stores were invented. Did you ever wonder where your donated t-shirts go, and the stories underneath them? Nicaragua has bundles of stories behind your donated t-shirts. What makes your donated t-shirts so humorous is that people in most third world countries have no idea what they say.

For example, walking through the market in Rivas, Nicaragua, I spied a man wearing a t-shirt that had an arrow pointing toward his belly with the words, “Baby Inside.”  Poor guy, if he only had a clue, he would have destroyed his machismo.  The same day, I spotted a woman naked from the waist down,swaying and weaving through the market with a bright red t-shirt that said, “I Love NY.”  “Ron,” I shouted,” What’s wrong with that woman?” “I think she’s drunk,” he replied. “She must have had a helluva night in NY.”

When I read the t-shirt on the driver of our local chicken bus, I drew attention from my ruckus laughter. The front said, “What do you call a woman with PMS and ESP?”  The back said, “A bitch who knows everything.” Exiting the bus, I said to the driver, “I hope your wife can’t read English.”

The other day, Jose, our gardener, stopped by for a visit. He was wearing a t-shirt that said, “I put out on the first date.” Try explaining that in Spanish to a shy, proper church going Nicaraguan.

When Marina invited us to her house for fish soup, her son, Jose, was wearing a McDonald’s employee shirt. He served me my fish soup and I couldn’t help but ask, “Can I have fries with that?” He didn’t understand my joke and I didn’t have the heart to explain it to him. He was proud of his t-shirt.

Walking down the street in Granada, I spotted a young Nica man with an East Tennessee State University t-shirt. “Wait, wait,” I commanded. “Can I take your picture?” Puzzled, he leaned against a colorful wall, and I snapped an awesome picture. That fall, when the faculty door decorating competition took place for Homecoming weekend, I blew up his picture to poster size and pasted it on my classroom door with the headline, “All over the world, ETSU celebrates homecoming.” I won second place in the door decorating competition that year.

My favorite t-shirts are the ones with familiar locations. I’ve seen a Belle Chere t-shirt on Ometepe Island. When I stopped a little boy riding his bike wearing a Belle Chere t-shirt, I asked, “Where did you get that shirt?” He pointed to the second-hand store across the street. How cool is that? Ron and I attended the Belle Chere music festival in Asheville, NC for years. Belle Chere came to the island, if only in t-shirt form.

So, the next time you drop off your used t-shirts at a Goodwill store, think of the stories underneath them. You never know who will be wearing them next. Clothes may make the man, but only if the man can understand the words printed on them.


8 thoughts on “Goodwill to All

  1. I happened to be in Rivas when Obama was inaugurated. Walking out the door of the place where I watched it on TV I ran right into a kid wearing a “Vote for Pedro” t-shirt. I about died laughing, and of course couldn’t explain why to him.

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