[Always choose the best for yourself. 
Make decisions that complement who you are.]

“Today I shall wear my red hat.”  Henrietta runs her fingers over the brim of her fedora.  As she looks in the mirror, she places it on her head and smiles brightly.

Her neighbours really like Henrietta’s red hat.  Gregory says she is playful. Nicholas says she is quirky.  Rebecca finds her smart and June calls her a good friend.

There is something very special about this red hat.  Henrietta describes it as being comfortable in her own skin.  It is much more than merely dressing up her appearance. The red hat is an expression of Henrietta.

One day, Melinda knocks on Henri’s door with a round-shaped box wrapped in bright, colorful paper.

“Hello Melinda!” Henrietta is happy to see her neighbour and welcomes her into the house.

As they sit down, Melinda says, “I have a gift for you.  From me to you!”

Henri is taken back by the unannounced generosity. “Well, thank you, Melinda.”  She opens the delicate box to find a yellow bell-shaped cloche hat with a tiny peacock plume tucked into a blue satin band.

“I saw this hat and thought you’d look spectacular in it.  It has so much personality, and what bright colours!” Melinda is very pleased with her findings.  “It’s so you!”

Henrietta examines the gift.  “Well, I… I don’t know what to say.  Thank you for thinking of me. That’s so thoughtful.”

“Don’t you love it?” exclaims Melinda. “I saw it and instantly said ‘Henri should be wearing this marvelous piece of art’.”

Henrietta takes off her beloved red hat, walks to the mirror and tries on Melinda’s gift.

“Look at you!” Melinda is elated. “Look how it brightens your eyes.  It’s perfect.”

Henrietta gazes at herself in the mirror, unsure of what to think.

Melinda takes Henrietta’s hand.  “You look wonderful. I had to buy myself one too.  We have matching hats. Let’s wear them together the next time we hang out!”  With that, Melinda gives Henri a big hug and skips out of the house.

Henrietta glances at herself in the mirror and thinks to herself. “The hat is beautiful. I see why Melinda likes it so much. But is it me?”

She decides to give it a try.  She puts on her oversized silk scarf, wraps it twice around her neck, slips on her boots and ventures out to pick up her dry-cleaning.

“Henri? Is that you?” shouts June as she crosses the street.  “I almost didn’t recognize you! Something’s different. What is it?”

“It’s my new hat!”  Henrietta smiles.

“It’s very pretty.”  June comments. “Why are you wearing a new hat?” she asks.

“Melinda saw it and thought of me.”

“Do you like wearing it?” June asks.

Henri responds, “It’s beautiful.  She thinks it suits me better.”

“But, do you like it for yourself?” June asks again.  “It doesn’t matter what Melinda thinks looks best on you, Henri.  You know better than anyone else what is best for you. Yes, it really is a great hat, I agree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s yours to wear. Is this the hat you want to wear?”

Henri responds, “I’m so happy Melinda loves the hat and I do appreciate the gift.”

June shrugs her shoulders, “What about your favourite red hat?”

Henrietta started scratching her forehead, the fabric made her itchy, “I just need to get used to this one.  I’ll be fine.”

June shrugs again, “If you want to wear this hat, Henri, own it.  If not, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re not the one to bring it to life, then someone else will.  Don’t feel bad, Henrietta, we all have a hat that perfectly suits us.”

Henrietta continues to the dry-cleaners, every so often scratching her forehead and lifting the brim to get some fresh air.

Gregory is walking towards Henrietta.  She is overjoyed to see him approaching.

Strangely, he walks past and pays no attention to Henrietta.  She calls out, “Gregory! It’s me, Henri!”

Gregory stops and quickly turns and stares at the woman who’s 15 feet from him.  Shocked he says, “Henri! I didn’t recognize you!”, and gives her a big hug.

“That’s ok, Gregory.  It’s my new hat.”

“Where’s your red hat?” he asks.

“At home.  I’m trying a new hat.”  she playfully does a vogue catwalk.

“Do you enjoy wearing it?” he was still surprised to see Henri without her favourite red hat.

“I’ll get used to it.  It’s not too bad. Sometimes my forehead feels warm and itchy.”  she explains. “Besides that, it’s really quite beautiful.”

“How is this hat better than your red hat?” He asks.

“Better? What do you mean, better?” Henrietta asks curiously.

“If you’re going to change your hat, make sure you love it equally, or more, than your favourite one.  No matter how beautiful and fabulous a new hat is, it might not be the right hat for you to wear. We all have a favourite hat that fits who we are, both on the outside and most importantly the inside.  Always wear your favourite, Henri. We don’t need you to wear a hat that we think suits you best, we love the hat that you choose. My purple top hat would look awfully funny on your little heart-shaped face.  On me, it’s perfect!” Gregory chuckles and bids farewell.

Henrietta walks quietly, pondering what Gregory said.

At that moment, Melinda parks her car near the dry-cleaners.  “Henrietta! You’re wearing the hat! It looks great on you! Look, I’m wearing mine too.”  Melinda is thrilled to see Henri in her new hat.

“Do you really think so, Melinda?” Henrietta asks.

“Why, of course!  Just look at me. You’re a mirror image.  Do you like it on me?” she asked.

“Yes I do!  I think you look wonderful.”  Henri brightens up.

“If I look wonderful, then you look wonderful!” Melinda beamed.

“You do radiate, Melinda.”  Henrietta says.

Just then, Rebecca walks out of Town Hall, sees Melinda and says, “I really love your hat!  I noticed you from the window!”

“Thank you, Rebecca! What do you think of Henri’s?”  Melinda, with delight, points to how beautiful Henrietta looks.

“Henrietta?  Where is she?”  Rebecca looks around.

Melinda responds, “Silly!  She’s standing right beside me!”

Rebecca, surprised, she runs up to Henrietta, “My dear friend, how did I not recognize you?”

Henrietta politely laughs, but inside she starts to feel uncomfortable.  She ponders, why aren’t my friends recognizing me? Perplexed, she watches Melinda and Rebecca joking with each other; admiring the light-hearted energy being exchanged.

As Nicholas steps out of the dry-cleaners he sees Henri.  “Why such a sad face, my good neighbour?”

Henrietta sighs, “I’m confused.  Melinda bought me this beautiful hat.  But no one seems to recognize me in it.”

Henri continues as Nicholas puts his arm around her, “And, it’s itchy on my forehead.  And, I don’t think it suits me as well as it does Melinda. The hat comes alive when she wears it.  And, well, I don’t like it as much as my red hat.

“Melinda gave you a very thoughtful gift.” Nicholas comments.

Henrietta perks up, “Oh yes, so loving.”

“Melinda thought it would suit your personality and who you are.”

“Yes, I think so.”

Nicholas, pointing to Melinda, “And I see she also bought the same hat.”

Henri laughs, “Yes, and she owns it like a champion!”

“There’s one very important question that requires your best honest answer” Nicholas smiles, “Do you want to wear the new hat, Henrietta?”

Henri paused, “I thought I did.  It was fun to see Melinda so excited.  I wanted to at least try it out.” she sighs, “No, I don’t want to wear it.  I want to wear my favourite red hat. I feel bad, Nicholas. I don’t want to hurt Melinda’s feelings.”

“Take it as a compliment.  What Melinda is saying is how much she believes in you.  She believes in you with good intentions.  And the same hat is her saying she feels connected to you.  Tell me, Henri, what are you going to do about this?” asks Nicholas.

At that moment, Melinda left her conversation with Rebecca and joined Nicholas and Henrietta.

“What are we talking about?” she chimed in, radiating all kinds of joie-de-vivre.

Henrietta nervously blurts out, “I want to wear my red hat, Melinda.”

Melinda giggles. “Really? I couldn’t tell.”

“You knew?” asked Henri.

“Of course I knew.  You haven’t stopped itching your forehead since you put it on.  And I noticed you trip because it’s drooping over your right eye.  And the perspiration soaked right through to the band. Oh Henrietta, yes, the hat looks stunning on you.  But if it doesn’t suit you, then don’t wear it. My goodness girl, what you wear on the outside must always represent what’s on the inside.  It doesn’t matter how absolutely fantastic I think you look in the hat. Ultimately, we each get to choose the hat we want to wear, regardless of what I think.  And besides, dear friend, I’m loving mine!” Melinda impersonates a classic Audrey Hepburn pose.

“It doesn’t hurt your feelings?  You bought that hat for me.” asked Henrietta.

“I didn’t buy you a hat, Henri.  I gave you a gift. And you received my gift with joy.  Which made me very happy. We will always share gifts with one another.  That’s the great part about community. But at the heart of it, you must decide what suits you best.”

Henrietta listens intently.

Nicholas says, “Do you like the hat?”

“I do. I especially like it on Melinda.” responds Henri.

Melinda asks, “Does the hat suit you?”

Henrietta paused.  She thought about it.  “No, I don’t think it suits me.  I’m not comfortable wearing it. It’s not the same as my favourite red hat.”

“Do you want the hat to be part of your expression?”  asks Nicholas.

“I noticed that nobody recognized me when I wore it.  Yet, Melinda is captivating in the very same hat. I like how our friends are responding to Melinda.  Whatever hat I choose, I want it to be a true reflection of what lives within me.” With that, Henrietta’s confidence started coming back.

Melinda nods her head, “Choose your hat and wear it well.  Own what you wear, my friend.”

“Here’s my last question for you,” says Nicholas, “Is wearing the hat life-giving?”

“I started to worry about what people thought. I was uncomfortable.  When I walked, it was difficult to see clearly in front of me.  But I assumed all this was a learning curve, an opportunity to try something new.”

“Learning curves are the invitation to thrive.  They’re there to help us become even better than we ever dreamed.  Thinking you have to be something you’re not, isn’t a learning curve.”  Nicholas nudges Henri playfully.

Melinda cheers, “Go home and get your red hat, Henrietta!”

Relieved, Henri runs home.  When she arrives, she hugs her red hat, puts it on and looks in the mirror.  At that moment she figured it out, “If I need to change, I get to choose my own hat.”

– Karen Thrall