Last May, when I was at a writer’s conference at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, I visited the Allenstand Craft Shop, in Asheville. I was hoping to find an electrical outlet cover to match a lovely dark green switch plate, with embossed leaves and fronds, that I had purchased there the year before. When I walked into the building, glory be, there was that artisan, right there, displaying her wares.
“I’m so excited to see you here,” I said, explaining my search. She had exactly what I was looking for—the outlet cover (with one rectangular hole, instead of two roundish ones, in just the same dark green), and she wrapped it up for me to buy.
Then she said, “Here’s how I make them.” All her tools and materials were there. She showed me how she uses real leaves and stems and presses them onto polymer clay and bakes them onto plain switch and outlet covers and stains them. She was clearly delighted with her wares, and I was interested in the process. More than I had been looking for, but I appreciate that she loves so much what she does. It’s important to her. So, she thought I would want to know about it. She’s proud of her work, just the way a craftsman should be.
Several years ago, as we were planning to move into what was my childhood home, I ordered a new gas stove top and oven, to replace the ones that were original to the house, built in 1959. The old ones had pilot lights, and the old oven had a light that was hard-wired inside the oven’s built-in space. The new appliances had electric ignitions and plugs. Plugs for which I had no outlets. The electrician came. After much looking, planning, and phoning the office, he described the solution. “Sounds great to me,” I said, only barely understanding his explanation. (My knowledge of how electricity works is basic: Flip the switch and the lights come on. Put the plug into the outlet and the computer/television/iron can be turned on. That’s about it.)
As he walked out the back door to begin things, he said, “You do have breakers, don’t you? Not fuses?”
“Sure,” I said. “Well, I guess so . . . “ He walked out to the back of the house and came right back in.
“No, you have fuses.” He had to start all over again, with the thinking, planning, calling the office. “To do this,” he finally said, “you’re going to need ALL NEW SERVICE.”
“All new service” is sort of an industry term, I think. When I say it to people who know about electrical work, they nod, knowingly. It’s not rewiring a house, but it’s doing something big. So big that the electricity had to be off from about 7:00 am ‘til 5:00 pm, and then the inspector had to come. They installed “all new service,” which included putting a grounded plug in each room (seriously, there wasn’t a single grounded plug anywhere in the whole house!), installing the necessary plugs for the stove top and oven, putting reset plugs in the kitchen and bathrooms, and hauling us into the twenty-first century. When the air conditioner was back on and cooling down the house, and the last electrician (the one who started me on this adventure) was wrapping up, he said there was a brand-new breaker box on the back of the house, just where the old fuse box had been, and . . . his eyes lit up. “You haven’t seen it, have you?” he asked.
Well, no, I hadn’t. He held open the back door and beckoned me to follow him.
Outside, he opened the box and showed me all the breakers, and all the little labels, so we would know which switches operated which rooms. He beamed with pride as he pulled the cover down and closed it. “You’re all set,” he said.
“Thank you so much,” I said. “It looks wonderful.” And I meant it. More than I had been looking for, but I appreciated that he wanted me to see it. The breaker box represented training and knowledge and hours of work. So, he thought I should want to know about it. He was proud that he could help us have an electrically safe and efficient home, just the way a craftsman should be.
Many years ago, I taught Pre-K summer classes at a local children’s museum. There are all sorts of four-year-olds, some easier to teach and guide than others. One session, we had a really, um, shall we say “lively” little girl. On our day in the Pioneer Room, she was especially lively. She hammered, she sawed, she scrubbed clothes on a washboard, she hung them up to dry, she turned a crank that peeled an apple. And, she followed her own agenda. Usually, a couple of teen-aged aides took the kids outside for a break while I cleaned up our messes and supervised the apples, cooking in preparation for making applesauce. I was concerned that our little free spirit would just run away from the group outdoors and disappear. So I kept her inside with me, for everyone’s safety. As I straightened up, she helped, and we talked. And truly, she was much more focused when there weren’t all those other kids around to distract her. At one point, she said, “Did you know my dog ran away?”
“No,” I said. “I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”
“Well,” she said, “do you want to hear the long version or the short version?”
I checked the clock to see how much time we had until the rest of the group returned. “I guess I want to hear the short version,” I told her.
She looked dismayed, a little confused, and somewhat sorry for me. “But, then you won’t get to hear the whole story!”
She knew her story, and she knew how to tell it. Even at four, she had a craftsman’s pride in her storytelling skill. So I listened . . . to the long version. She’s probably writing novels now. I think she’d do well at it.
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men
Colossians 3:23 (HCSB)
We all deserve to feel self-respect for the work we do that we value. And, if we value what we do, shouldn’t we want to share our skills with others? And if I want to share with you, then I need to show appreciation for your work, too. That shows respect, and it is kind. Whatever we’re going to do, we should do it enthusiastically, share it enthusiastically, and appreciate enthusiastically what others do.