A man is armed with a handful of paper towels and a squirt bottle.

“Looking good,” I said, genuinely enjoying the clear window beside me.

Turning, the man smiled.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” he said. “Am I right?”

We shared a few more words before he returned to his work, tipping his hat as we parted. But after I left, it wasn’t the clear view through the window that remained with me, but the pride beneath his words. To him, there was nothing more important than to do his job to the best of his ability.

I think about this often — of how many of us really understand the principle driving this man to leave behind a window so clean you’d think he’d signed his name in the corner.

There is honor in a job well done.

I remember my dad telling me about being a child during the Great Depression and men on his street going to work in factories that could not afford to make good on their payroll checks for weeks in a row.

My grandfather, it turns out, was one of those men. According to the story, he told my dad he’d rather be busy with a chance to cash a paycheck one day than sit around and do nothing. Work rewarded the soul, made you whole.

I once heard someone say you can’t teach “give a damn.” That is, your motivation comes from inside or it does not. The drive to do your best regardless of the task must come from somewhere deep inside. Lectures don’t work, nor does berating someone into working harder.

My cousin, now a retired electrician, told me you could always tell if his team installed the light switches or electrical outlets by merely looking at the direction of the screw head.

“Ours always finish horizontally,” he said. “That is our calling card.”

There is an oft-told story of how Apple founder Steve Jobs was so fastidious about the quality of the products his team was creating he insisted they sign the inside of the exterior casing. Every circuit on the board, so goes the story, had to be properly aligned and squared up to the edges. When a frustrated engineer once asked him who would know once the outer shell covered up the motherboard, Jobs replied, “I will.”

Which brings me back to the gentleman who worked so patiently to ensure the windows he worked on would be free of smudges or streaks. To him, this was his canvas, his reputation. The only thing missing was his signature in the corner of his work.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com


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(5) comments

Bailey Jones

There is honor in all labor and great satisfaction in doing a good job. When we opened our BnB I elected to do the cleaning myself rather than hire it out. I am not a fastidious person - in fact, in all personal matters, I'm a slob. But cleaning for others gives me an opportunity to achieve something very close to perfection - even if it's only for a few hours, and I've found that I enjoy the experience very much.

The electrician reminds me of when I was replacing a light switch in the bathroom. The wire was looped around the screw, but the screw wasn't tightened. While installing a new thermostat, I found that one of the wires to the furnace was tightly under the screw, but the insulation hadn't been removed. The washer connection was plumbed with cold water, but not hot. I could go on. I can only guess that the guys who "flipped" this house were more focused on profit than personal pride.

Occasionally I'll give a local indigent man, a veteran, 20 bucks to mow our tiny yard. He uses a weed whacker and will take a full hour to make sure that the yard is perfect. It's a highlight on our street which is otherwise plagued with indifference.

"Fires can't be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks." - James Baldwin

Wayne D Holt

I find it interesting how I can so completely disagree with you on some issues and yet so earnestly wish there was a world--or at least an America--full of people with your perspective.

As my dad used to say, " It's a funny old world." Rock on, Bailey...but I've still got my eye on you. [beam]

Bailey Jones

It just goes to show that we are all more similar than we are different, Wayne. I spent part of my weekend helping a neighbor put up a Trump banner. Because we're neighbors first.

Ted Gillis

Now Bailey, I would have drawn the line at that. Or at least feigned a back ache.

I do identify with the proper work ethic described in the article. As an apprentice (decades ago) I spent my share of time working on underground plumbing projects. There was this one old journeyman that I worked with, who made us apprentices stretch a string line on top of the ditch from end to end and then drop a plumb line down to center the pipe. He’d make us mark the top of the pipe and then go back and check our accuracy. This effort was all for pipe laying in a ditch that was going to be covered up with dirt!

Bailey Jones

"God, Guns, and Trump" - it was also an opportunity to do some teasing over giving Trump 3rd billing.

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