We all need a John.
Maybe it’s the time of the year, or maybe it’s the time of man, but I find myself reflecting on childhood memories more and more these days.
My earliest memory—I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old—is of my older brother, Steve, shaking me awake one Saturday morning, saying, “We’re getting a bar!” I popped out of bed and raced with him to the kitchen, where Dad and another man were reviewing plans for a dining-room addition to the house, which included a breakfast bar. (I was so disappointed. I thought I was getting a candy bar!)
Next thing I remember, I’m driving nails into the kitchen floor, “helping” a man I’ve always called “Carpenter John,” who was assisting Dad with parts of the remodel. I can’t imagine I was very good at installing underlayment yet, so I must have bent dozens of nails over, spoiling the otherwise perfect work of the handyman. What I don’t remember is Carpenter John scolding, yelling, or telling me to run along.
I wish I had been more like Carpenter John with my own kids when they were growing up. I could have been more patient, more encouraging, more willing to let them make their own mistakes and learn from them. It’s not like I’m a perfectionist; it just always seemed that I was in a hurry to get stuff done.
Funny how you never realize the impact you can have on someone else’s life, simply by crossing their path. I have no other memories of Carpenter John after that day more than 50 years ago on the kitchen floor. And I suspect he had no special memory of the day at all. He was just doing his job. But his kind patience kindled the tinder smoldering in my little maker’s hands and heart.
So, this Christmas, remember to give the gift of time. Time in the shop, of course, building those great handmade gifts. But also the time to encourage, mentor, and share your woodworking talent with someone just wanting to learn. It’s what the carpenter would do.