The Landing After I Leaped Before I Looked

Mike —  November 30, 2010 — Leave a comment

First a little disclaimer: Do not read into this post anything that I did not explicitly write. Don’t jump to conclusions and try to assign blame. The adventure began like this and it’s about to end with a fully shingled roof and some valuable lessons. That’s a good trip. It’s been discouraging and frustrating at times, but satisfying and even a little fun at others. The whole experience has highlighted some problems to me during the last month. I write this to propose some solutions, not to place blame or lay on the guilt.

I write this with tongue in cheek (and possibly foot in mouth), so please take it lightly. I harbor no ill will toward anyone who couldn’t help, and only a little toward whoever made me think this was a good idea in the first place (just kidding, that was me).
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I have a lot of friends on facebook… but I don’t have a lot of friends on my roof.

This has been frustrating for me lately. I’ve needed help. Roofing’s one of those jobs that’s kind of tough to tackle on your own.

Black Friday for me was tar paper black. My birthday was Saturday and a lot of people stopped by my wall to wish me a good day. I would have felt pretty good about that except for one thing – Zero of them stopped by my roof to help me finish the shingling. This was my first weekend at home since August and I got to spend it roofing. My 11 year old daughter and 8 & 7 year old sons have learned where shingles need to be and when. My mom lugged tarps full of shingle scraps to the roll off dumpster for her Thanksgiving vacation and my dad spent 2 days up there with me stripping off the old and laying down the new. They may still be in recovery. They may never come to visit again! My wife has made lots of trips out of the house to bring me stuff I forgot to take up with me. A couple of my 16 year old students have helped out a lot (except when both of them could come and distract each other). A few of my friends have spent several hours helping out, but most just couldn’t make it.

Now, before this starts sounding as bitter as Marshall’s coffee (hopefully, not too late) I need to say that I don’t think this is an indictment of my friends. I sort of want to feel sorry for myself and be mad at them, but I’m not. I sort of want to moan about how my hour of need found me alone, but I know I’m not alone. I sort of want to be hurt by serving in a church full of people who watched the Huskers and Broncos, and “decked their halls”, and took family holiday pictures, and played around for the long weekend while I sent nail after nail into tar and asphalt and wood… but the truth is, I’d have much rather been doing those things, too. Roofing’s not nearly as fun as those things, or others… like pulling out your fingernails, or eating fried wombat hair.

I’ve identified a few possible reasons I’ve had less help than hoped for:
1. Maybe I suck at asking for help. Apparently, “I’ve never done this before and I’d love it if you could come help me put shingles on my house.” doesn’t mean what I thought it means. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who appeared to have everything under control, but maybe I do because if my friends knew the true level of need, I can’t believe they wouldn’t have helped. I know this because we’ve helped others together in similar endeavors. I think I need to communicate my need more accurately. But I don’t want to use guilt to motivate, so I always leave an open door for people to say no. Maybe that open door makes my friends think I don’t really need their help.
2. Maybe we live with no margins. We are a busy people. I mentioned earlier that this was the first weekend I’d been able to spend at home since August. Soccer, funerals, weddings, work trips, anniversary celebrations, family emergencies… all of these things keep us running from one thing to the next with no buffer zones… no empty spaces to simply be, and to breathe, and to be available. I wonder if we’re just too busy.
3. Maybe we’re just afraid to try. I realize that most of my friends are not roofing experts, or maybe even all that savvy regarding nails and hammers and construction type stuff. Neither am I (which is why I say construction type stuff, I don’t know what most of it’s really called). Once, when I was a kid, I hauled a few shingles onto a roof my dad was shingling for some lady that needed help, but that’s the extent of my roofing experience. I’m not a handy guy. I usually can only fix the things that I’ve broken and seen exactly how I broke it. It’s a whole different ball game to deconstruct a time honored method of getting the wet off the top of a house, and then to actually successfully do the work necessary to secure the shingles where they need to be. But guess what? I learned. Why do we let what we don’t know stop us from trying?

So here’s what I propose, friends:
-Let’s stop mitigating our speech and say what we really mean.
-Let’s stop filling every moment with something and create some margin in our lives (not just for our friends, but especially for our Father).
-Let’s never let what we don’t know scare us away from trying.

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