A few weeks ago, I got let out on my first talk for the Rotary Club. These are busy people, and speakers have a prescribed amount of time. Of course I wanted to represent South Shore Mental Health well, so that morning I pulled my only pin-striped suit off its hanger.

I’m telling you the truth. I looked quite dapper with that thing on.

I had a meeting that morning away from the office and had to go directly from there to the Rotary Club lunch. I got in the car, stretched my right leg, and heard a rip.

You’re cringing, too. I know it.

I had no time to do anything but go directly to the luncheon, where I was meeting Margaret, our director of marketing and development. I didn’t know if she knew it was in her job description to check the CEO’s behind to see what was on view, but she dutifully fulfilled the task. Despite the day being quite warm, I kept my jacket on all during lunch and while I spoke.

How do we clothe ourselves? These last few months since coming to South Shore Mental Health have been a new period for me. I’ve realized again that everything has a life cycle, and we put on our best clothes to celebrate them. We dress up for gala dinners but also to honor losses. Even in these first months, we recognized the loss of a clinical colleague to illness and put on our best outfits for that.

My mother lived with us at the end of her life, and when she was gone, I went through her clothes. I remember thinking they had no shape without her. They were the same clothes, but they’d had their shape because of her.

We give shape to our clothes. Our clothes don’t give shape to us. Organizationally, we give shape to our teams and mission. We have the commitment to keep going in new seasons and as things shift. I feel joyous about helping to build new shapes despite having the talent of splitting my pants just before a public appearance.

There’s a humanity of life in an organization. Things happen. Pants split, which is a small thing. Loss happens, which is a big thing. But celebration also happens. As we move through these experiences together, and find our clothing, we give shape to who we are as a community that serves and heals.