Behind Weaver House Director Michael Pearson’s desk stands a reminder of jobs past, of inspirations still present, of trials and tribulations turned into triumphs – stitched together in the form of a quilt.
‘Grumpy’ Girl, Meet Grumpy Shirt
“I’m right and you’re wrong,” the t-shirt said, with the mouth of Grumpy, the dwarf from Snow White, turned down into a frown.
At the time Michael saw the shirt, he was a new social worker employed by a school system.
He had been trying for months to help a student named Colleen, but she had remained sullen, unwilling to engage with him – except maybe to say, “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”
Inspiration struck in that moment at Orlando Studios; Michael decided to buy the shirt.
“I wore it the next time I saw her, and she smiled. It was the first time I had seen her smile,” Michael said.
After that, Michael said, it was smooth sailing with Colleen.
‘Hundreds of T-Shirts’
Throughout the early years of his career, Michael continued to use t-shirts to forge connections with challenging clients.
“By the time I got to Greensboro, I probably had hundreds of shirts,” Michael said. “So, I had to do something with them.”
Michael decided to make them into a quilt – a patchwork of his life.
Individually, the t-shirts no longer served a purpose. Sewn together, the shirts are a constant inspiration.
It “reminds me that doing better is possible,” Michael said – and that, sometimes, “unspoken words have more power that spoken words.”
That was certainly the case for Michael in Louisiana.
‘Only Good to Fill a Tank of Gas’
Michael worked in a school system in Louisiana before coming to Greensboro. While there, he came across a young man struggling with reading, writing and math.
An official high up in the school system remarked to Michael that the boy’s only prospect in life was pumping gas at a gas station.
Michael bought a shirt saying “a kid is more than a test score” to remind himself that this student was so much more than the school official believed.
After the official’s careless comment, Michael redoubled his efforts with this student, determined to prove the guy wrong,
“And guess what? He graduated from high school, and he’s not pumping gas at a gas station,” Michael said.
Triumph over Trials and Tribulations
That t-shirt and many others – all with their own stories and lessons – now make up this piece of Michael’s past.
The shirts are not only a symbol of his successes, but are also a testament to the struggles that preceded them.
“When I face challenges with clients at Weaver House,” Michael said, “I look at the quilt and remember that struggles are a part of life and that we have to continue to find a way to project what we want most.
“Each square reminds me of a time I was able to forge that connection with someone, and it keeps me looking for new ways to reach our clients, one at a time.”