Today, I Am A Carpenter

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You build your life, one day at a time. I wish I’d known that.

Life is a funny thing, isn’t it? You don’t realize that you are building something until you look back on it. “Wow, if someone had told me that I was building my future, I would have taken school more seriously.” Oh, people tell you along the way, but it’s hard to hear some things when you’re busy pounding away.
When I was little, I was probably told that I was too little to cross the street by myself. I didn’t hear that. What I heard, instead, was my friends asking if I wanted to go to the candy store because they had a little money and wanted to treat us. I got the candy…and a spanking!
When I was in high school, I’m sure someone told me that studying was necessary to actually get A’s. What I heard was, “C’s are good average grades.” I was the perfect example of how telling someone that “you will need this someday” didn’t motivate me to take my job more seriously.
And so it went throughout my early life. There were, probably, messages all around me, I’m sure, but did I hear them?
I was busy trying to figure out how to not sweat while working on a project. I didn’t like to sweat. At the time, I was a carpenter building shanties, leaving behind little piles of rubble everywhere I went. I can see, now, that I was trying to figure out what kind of life I wanted to build. Practice is necessary for that. The shanties were my practice.
Now, I’ve reached a point in my life where I see the little piles. The shanties are long gone, having disappeared into the earth along with the shanties quickly erected, for practice, by others. Then I see, other structures that I erected; a little more sturdy but each remodeled often. I’m still a carpenter apprentice. I built my first life thinking it would fit my needs, only I outgrew it.
I didn’t realize that what I was building was a very important life. It wasn’t just my life that I was building. My younger brother and sister were watching everything that I built. While they wanted to build their own structures, I was modeling one way for them. I didn’t realize that. I maybe would have tried harder to do a good job!
When I started my career as a special education teacher, I was laying out the building plans for every child I taught in their early elementary years. I was pouring the foundation for each and everyone that I touched. In the eyes of the parents, I was probably seen as the general contractor. They looked to me to know what products (tools and skills) would stand the test of time. The students had no idea that I’d never poured a foundation before. Some of the parents knew, but still they trusted that I could do it. Now I look back on those days and thank God because it had to be God who guided me through those first years; God and the Physical Education teacher. It was that person who showed me where the school supply closet was and how the past special education teacher used books from there for her students. I’ll never forget the principal coming into my first classroom as I was attempting to draw a tree, freehand, for a bulletin board. I think his exact words were “Not much of an artist are you?” Again, luckily, over time my skills improved (and I found an overhead projector).
Then I became a mom. Now, my understanding of parenting came directly from Dr. Spock in those days. My own mother shared lessons that I didn’t want to use, while Dr. Spock seemed to be on every other young parent’s coffee table. Well, I read this book like it was my blueprint. I read, now, that this man was later seen as the reason for moral decline in youth and the rise of criminal behavior. However, I saw him as being totally bent on schedules and structure and I blame Dr. Spock for telling me to let my baby just cry if it appeared nothing was wrong. He said that it was good exercise. I followed every design detail. Today, I have apologized to my oldest daughter for letting her cry for hours on end. Luckily, she doesn’t remember. I must have replaced that rough material with something a little more polished by the time she was old enough to remember. Either that or the experience was a good one for her because, today, she is strong and powerful. Maybe it was good exercise.
As time went on, I was trusted with the task of being a general contractor (principal) for a whole construction crew (teachers). And what did I do? I had learned that it was important to have blueprints. It was important to have the right tools. It was important to go slow and follow a step by step process. It would be easier that way.
I told them that they were “Building A New Tomorrow”. I said “Today, you are a carpenter.”

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3 Replies to “Today, I Am A Carpenter”

  1. How adorable the little carpenter is. It is true that we build it one day at a time, but I also like to think we have to build towards something. This was an interesting reflection. Thank you.

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