Why I wear a safety pin


I pinned a safety pin on my collar this morning and thought immediately of Mrs. Cain.

Mrs. Cain was a resident of the nursing home where my mother served as director of nursing during my junior and senior years of high school. In those days, in my home state, certification was not required to be a nursing assistant, and I would sometimes fill that role for my mother when the facility was short-staffed. I got well acquainted with Mrs. Cain.

Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t yet a thing, but many of the residents, including Mrs. Cain, had some form of dementia. But Mrs. Cain had a form of dementia that I would prefer if it ever comes to that. She was eternally busy and unfailingly positive. All day long, she pushed every fiberglass molded chair she could lay hands on to one end of the long hallway. When they were all in place, she would push them back to the other end. Regular visitors looking for a place to sit knew exactly where to find a chair, and Mrs. Cain always relinquished it cheerfully.

Mrs. Cain wore the kind of housedress that older women wore in the 1960’s, sewn from some cotton print or another. The front of her dress was always covered with safety pins — any size. Every now and again, some well-meaning nurse would consider them a safety hazard and try to get them away from Mrs. Cain. That never worked.

My safety pin is a sign that I pledge to be a safe person for immigrants, people of color, and others who may be feeling vulnerable in the polarized, anxious, post-election culture. I pledge to speak up if I see bullying or harassment of any kind. It is not a political position. It is a faith statement.

As followers of Jesus, we would all do well to emulate Mrs. Cain’s persistence and positive attitude. We must continue to witness to the one who welcomed all, who lifted up the outcast and ate with foreigners. No matter what our party affiliation or lack thereof, no matter how we voted, surely this is something on which we can all agree.

I’m going to continue to wear a safety pin for the foreseeable future. It’s a reminder to myself as much as to those who see it. I promise I won’t cover my whole shirt with them. If you want to wear one as well, that’s great. If you don’t, please remember Mrs. Cain.