Can I help you start?

“That’s more impressive than anything I’ve ever done.”
The man who said it was faceless, passing my house at twilight as I worked on my boat in the driveway.

I wanted to wave away the mystique of accomplishment and told him he could do it too.

“All you have to do is start.”

That’s what I said to him.

“All you have to do is start.”

I meant it as an invitation.

 

My well-to-do burby neighborhood has watched in supportive fascination as one of their own removed his Gray Flannel Suit and took a public risk by creating something.

It’s getting close to finished now, and actually looks like a boat to even the most casual observer. That, combined with the increased summer foot-traffic, has brought a host of well-wishers past to wave encouragement.

 

I love it.

 

Everyone has in them excitement, ability, and genius.
In most of us they lie dormant; stifled by expectations and fear or numbed away by television or the web.

 

Working on my boat is how I proselytize. Maybe filling my driveway with wood shavings can inspire someone to learn a language, take the quilting lessons they’ve always wanted, or write the novel that’s aching to get out.

Every time I wave back to someone, or answer their questions about the project, I hope I’ve incited them to act.

“All you have to do is start.”

It should have been innocuous, a take-it-or-leave-it suggestion of future possibility.
But he didn’t take it that way.

In an abstract “I’m not really interested, but I’m willing to dispute the point” way he talked about the knowledge or skill necessary to start such a thing.

On its face, what I’m doing appears to require great skill. In reality, a couple of library books, $200 in hand tools, and courage (or naivete) are enough to start. But how could he know that? I didn’t know it until the boat was half finished.

I should have conceded and re-issued the invitation another day; a day when we could talk without shouting across a yard, read intentions on each others faces, and when I could find out what excited him.

 

I should have, but I didn’t.

 

“All you have to do is start”.

I only said it once, but it landed so badly that it echoes in my mind.

After he disappeared into the dark I thought to track him down, apologize, and explain that I intended to invite rather than belittle. It was too late though. I didn’t know which way he went, and with the sky fading into night I had no idea what he even looked like.

So, I let him go.

After sitting with it for a few days I’ve realized my mistake:

 

People have to know you, or think they do, before you can inspire them. Prior to relationship it is presumptuous to suggest they change their priorities and, by extension, their lives.

 

In the absence of relationship the question isn’t innocuous, it’s pejorative.

Perhaps a better question is the one I ask you…

“Can I help you start?”

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You Don’t Deserve It

Instead of wallowing in my misery, I just made some changes.

-Stephanie Mills

I saw a bumper sticker on my way to work today:

“Our Police DESERVE Higher Pay”

Do they?

Let me interject that I know nothing about the economics of Police work. I don’t know what police are paid. I don’t know how hard it is to acquire the skills necessary to do the job. I don’t know how many people are competing for the available positions. I don’t know how dangerous it is. This isn’t about the Police.

I could have researched these facts, but that wouldn’t solve what bothered me about the sticker.

What bothered me was “DESERVE”.

 

Do any of us DESERVE anything?

How does DESERVING something affect your life?

 

A few years back I decided I was underpaid.

This was not an emotional decision, I relied entirely on cool-headed logic. Facts and incontrovertible evidence indicated that I DESERVED more money and that my massive contributions to the corporate bottom line were completely overlooked. An oversight of this nature proved my boss was either stupid or evil. Rarely have I been more self-righteously certain of myself.

I hated my job.
Work sucked.
Life wasn’t much better.

Then I noticed how bad everything was and I decided to make some changes.

I acknowledged that:
I already had more than enough money to be reasonably comfortable.
I already had as much security as most people can expect.
I already had a boss whose needs supported my family.
I already had everything necessary for a great life.

I had made a deal for employment and I could choose to continue faithfully serving that deal, or go make another one.

Today I enjoy my job.
Today work is fun.
Today life is much better.

Nothing changed but me.


Feeling slighted, like you are deprived of what you DESERVE, is no way to live.

Our Police can do better than that, and so can you.

What changes could you make if you let go of what you DESERVE?