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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Wrong Tool for the Right Job...

It’s hard to do something with the wrong equipment.

Two weeks ago I couldn’t find a screwdriver anywhere so I decided to Gerry rig a butter knife into a Phillips head screwdriver. I was stripping the screw and ruining the knife, but eventually with persistent toil and brazen determination I removed the screw. What would have taken about 20 seconds with a screwdriver and about 3 seconds with a drill and the right bit, took about 5 minutes and took 2 years off my life.

Last week I jumped into my car at 6:20am and looked at an opaque frosty windshield. I searched the car high and low for an ice scraper to no avail. I scoured the garage and even looked in our van to steal one from my wife. Nothing. After a few minutes of this scavenger hunt of sorts, I resigned to the fact that for whatever reason our scrapers were long gone and set my affections on finding something else with a sharp edge that could get the job done. I eventually decided on a CD cover that was under my seat. I took the CD out of it as well as the little pamphlet with the lyrics and proceeded to scrape the thin layer of frost off my windshield. The plastic was scraping unevenly and when I would press it harder against the glass the case would crack and chip away at the edges. By the time I finished clearing a little hole in the windshield to look out of, the CD case was cracked into pieces and my hand felt like there were little shards of plastic lodged under the skin of my irritated palm.

This morning I decided to edge my mulch beds. The weather was beautiful and the ground was perfect for digging, neither too wet nor too dry…like the soup in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it was “just right”. I opened the garage and looked around for a good shovel only to find one with a broken handle from this past Spring. I had forgotten that I broke it when I was digging out a tree trunk that ironically is still sitting in my yard as a memorial of yet another half-finished project.

The only other tool in the shed, so to speak, was an ice pick that I inherited from my father who inherited it from his father. It is weathered, but solid--seemingly unbreakable. Tools come and go, but this one stands the test of time as the grandfather of gardening. I have yet to use it on ice ironically, which was its intended purpose, but almost every year I pull it out after looking hopelessly for a shovel and use it to edge my cedar mulch beds around my landscaping. Today was no exception. After an hour and half of pushing that doggone ice pick into the sod and turning over the ground, I emerged with 2 massive blood blisters and 2 smaller puss blisters on my fingers. My hands feel dead even as I stroke these keys to write this entry, shaking like they have endured a shocking trauma. And they have.

It got me to thinking about how often people do things without being equipped with the right tools. They live their lives making the best with what they have in the garage of their hearts. The come upon situations and dig deep inside of themselves to find the equipment needed to respond appropriately, but after coming up empty, they sheepishly either back away or foolishly fire away with a random tool that doesn’t fit the bill.

It does no good to give someone an opportunity if you first don’t equip them to succeed. It does no good to expect someone to grow and then never give them to tools to do so. I’m guilty of doing this with people all the time. I think they should just know what I’m talking about and go and do what I preached on…but they sit there saying, “If you knew how empty my tool shed was, you wouldn’t be taking me to the woodshed right now! I've got nothin’! No one has taught me, tooled me!”

And if it feels anything like using a butter knife as a screwdriver, a CD as an ice scraper or an ice pick as an landscape edger, I feel their pain. This kind of life is filled with blood blisters, shaking hands and salty sweat.

It helps to have the right tools because...Equipped people are empowered people.

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