Looking back I realize that my Junior High School was quite progressive. It was a large school that served almost an entire county, had three separate wings and splintered off into two High Schools. During these two awkward growth development years, those ages between 11 and 13, we were taught basic skills. Two classes were mandatory; Home Economics and Shop. Every student was required to take two semesters of each, regardless of whether you were a boy or a girl, which I rather liked. I was good at Home Ec. and should have been because my Grandmother took hours painstakingly teaching me the finer points of sewing. But I loved Shop. Working with machines and wood and metal and becoming involved in a project that had to be precise; had to be exactly to scale. I enjoyed doing the math, figuring out the size and shape of something and then having a physical end result that looked exactly like my original spec. I have never really wondered why later on in life as an adult I have enjoyed engineering so much. It was because at the age of 13 I loved Shop.
And I loved my Shop teacher. For the life of me I will never remember his name, but I have never forgotten him.
He was in his late 50’s, wiry and skinny with a full head of grey hair and heavily rimmed glasses. He wore a pressed button down shirt and khakis with work boots every day. And he was STRICT. Man was he ever strict. I clearly remember on the first day of class after our first ‘safety standards’ lecture that I was sufficiently in awe and afraid of this man simultaneously. He wanted precision. He wanted attention. He ran a tight ship. And he demanded respect. And not one of us, not one single snot nosed adolescent among us was willing to test his patience and see how far we could go.
But it was not just the strictness with which he taught us that I was so in awe of. It was the knowledge that in spite of the fact that at a moment’s notice he could explode and yell at us and tell us that we were not paying attention or that we were idiots; it was the fact that he EXPECTED us to do well. He expected that once he thoroughly taught us the finer skills of a mitre saw, that we would know exactly how to use that mitre saw from then on. It was the expectation that we would work hard and not talk and not screw around and create a project using expensive machinery and respect the fact that at any moment we could loose a finger. I remember snapping in two a very fine saw blade and feeling awful because I knew exactly what I had done wrong. And of course I was issued another one, but God I felt guilty as hell.
One day in class, while creating a project with wood and merrily sanding away, my Shop teacher caught me for one second sanding in the wrong direction. He approached me and I remember so distinctly thinking to myself “He is not yelling at me. He’s not angry.” And I paid so much attention to what it was that he said. So much so, that I remember it to this day. Twenty-One years later.
He said “You can sand a piece of wood along the grain as much as you like. And it will glow and gloss and catch the light the way a beautiful piece of wood should. But if you sand that piece of wood against the grain just once it will take you a lifetime to sand it back in the right direction.”
Those words have stuck with me all through these years. Words that I have rolled around in my head and rolled off my tongue many times in my life. And over time, I have given these words much more meaning and depth than perhaps my Shop teacher ever intended. They have become words that I have held close to my heart. A bit of a mantra for living my life the way I think that I should. For me, these words mean ‘Trust’.
In my life trust is everything. Trust is the bond that binds us. It is a sense of security. Trust is knowledge in yourself and those that you surround yourself with. Trust is the laughter. Trust is holding those that you love close to your heart. And trust is having full knowledge that those you are with and those that you love will be honest and true and will always have your back. For me trust is given implicitly, without fear and without gain.
Trust is also the bind that breaks. It is the awful truth, the mid night phone call, the angry tears and the quite solitude. It is pain that can not be forgiven and moments that can not be forgotten. It is time that is taken away. It is sadness when you realize that someone whom you loved for so long and so hard never really deserved your trust to begin with. It is betrayal and the feeling of awful disillusionment.
It is the knowledge that a beautiful piece of wood was sanded against the grain. And no matter how hard you work to make it right; even if you spend a lifetime sanding along the grain in the right direction, that piece of wood is forever marred. It will never glow and gloss as bright again.