The person I was walking with on a soft and warm island night was speaking of her career as a commercial painter.
From a previous conversation, I knew that in her work she was a victim of harassment, exposure to extreme language, lack of privacy and the frustrating absence of washroom facilities. She was small in stature, large in personality, worked hard and excelled at her job.
The conversation this evening differed, for she spoke of the importance of her work as the painter in terms of being the final master in a complete project. She went on to explain how disheartening it was when the other trades didn’t do a great job. It was discouraging, she said, to simply cover up the mistakes made by those who made the wall or structure.
I thought of this conversation deeply and in my reflection realized two distinct ways of thinking.
The first was to consider that we cannot mask our errors or the mistakes of others. The stress cracks will someday be exposed and the crooked corner will always be a crooked corner. There is no way to cover up that level of error.
Regardless of our trade or our journey in life, it is our responsibility to do the very best.
- Moe with Brenda Schoepp: In many Canadian homes, there’s not enough food
I recently moved and hired a few young men to transport the furniture. They were in their early 20s, professional and polite, on time, well groomed and did not use one bad word (which is rather unique when there are 17 steps involved).
Before they left we had a short conversation and I thanked them for ‘being gentlemen’ and went on to explain what I saw in them and encouraged them to continue in their lives with a high level of excellence. Always, I said, bring your best self to the job, to your relationships and to your community. They vacantly stared at me for a while and then their eyes misted over and a few tears were shed. After a simple “thanks,” they went off to the next job.
Perhaps they were never thanked before or maybe the home they came from was short on empowerment or possibly they connected at a high level. I did not know — I only knew that I saw great potential in these young men. If they were a wall, it did seem as though the painter would not have to cover a mass of mistakes, just the odd bump or scratch.
In our lives we can consider this analogy as one for doing things right the first time for we cannot count on the painter to cover up our mistakes. Or can we?
Looking at the same challenge of painting an imperfect wall, one can also carry the brush of grace or call upon kindness to ensure that the wall presents well. The cracks will indeed show up over time and the corner will remain crooked. Imperfect as we are, there is still the forgiveness and love of others and of our chosen Higher Power to cover those wounds and give us a fresh start in the world.
It is fair to say we cannot lead perfect lives. There are too many characters and events that scratch and dent us, and the years fade away the vibrancy of youth.
The room however, does not have to be dull or shabby as we are in a constant state of repair. Paint, like love, embraces the soul and brightens the room. It does not discriminate on the wall or care about the hand that holds the brush. It exists to give life to a room and to give a sense of peace to the resident of that space. The master’s hand creates on what they see as a clean palate despite the disrepair of the wall.
Here is a good question for your family dinner topic: Does the wall need to be repaired before being repainted?
Often we think that we must try to fix our past or the past of someone else because if we do not the paint is wasted. Is that true?
Regardless of what you think the answer is, the reality may be that the wall itself might be scarred and yet remain foundationally solid. When we encounter the battered, the bruised, the imperfect or unloved on our journey, perhaps we might consider treating them as though all are a fresh canvas, ready for our grace and kindness; ready for a fresh coat of paint. Certainly we would appreciate the same for ourselves.
We know our past. Those events happened for us but they are not the whole of a person and do not shape the colour or tone of the future, nor should we hold the past of others up as a faded strip of battered beige.
It’s a new season in life to embrace with grace and an extra bit of kindness, remembering all that is possible. Time to colour our lives and the lives of those around us – beautiful.