Thursday January 28, 2016
The crew finally arrived at my door. Juan, the lead man apologized for their tardiness, three hours later than scheduled. Although not otherwise inconvenienced, the delay stirred serious doubts about whether I hired the right company for the job.
It was clear he was a seasoned artisan and brick was his medium.
Juan listened closely as I described the shape and feel I pictured. I wanted the path to be a meandering flow to my front door warmly welcoming guests to my home. We discussed the right width for comfort and the flow of the pattern, its edges softly rippling like a small stream. I knew nothing of pavers or how to lay them out, but he did. I asked him to share his expertise to accomplish my vision. While we created the mental form, his co-workers, a man also in his 40's and a younger one in his 20's stood idly by the truck. The young man was completely engrossed in his phone.
They used flexible PVC pipe to shape the right edge, the senior men and I discussing the balance of the curves from top to bottom. I marveled at their process and attention to detail. The brick palettes had to be unloaded and the younger man worked intermittently between texts. I finally asked him if he was texting with his boss. When he said no, I asked to put his phone away and to focus on what he was being paid to do. His co-workers gratefully smiled and said: "we tell him that all the time, but he doesn't listen."
A number of the bricks they were placing had big chips. I asked them to use those with clean edges and showed them what was acceptable and what was not. They checked the bricks and either turned them over or discarded and chose another. A while later, I glanced out and saw an odd break in the pattern right in the center of the walkway. There, the young man had placed several severely chipped bricks. I asked him to replace them which meant he had to take out about six rows to get back to them. His look conveyed his irritation. His co-worker took the opportunity to say:
"when you take the time to do it right the first time, you can take pride in your work and you don't have to redo things."
It occurred to me that there is a greater loss than both material and financial when we do not give our best. Whether personally or professionally, each time we put forth less than our best effort or less than our full attention, we chip away at our relationships with those who count on us to do our part.
More importantly, we chip away our self-value which chips away at our mental peace and self-love.
In giving less than what we are capable of, we deny ourselves the joy of serving others well, and the feeling of accomplishment that nourishes our self-worth and satisfies the soul.
My walkway turned out beautifully, just as I pictured it. It was Juan that meticulously swept the gravel to the brick edge, finishing everything as if the walkway had always been there. He smiled at my happiness and the job well done. In addition to my verbal gratitude, I placed an extra monetary expression in his hand. When we value what we do, so do others.