This piece originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Popular Woodworking
As I write this, I’m sitting in my basement (“home office”) in Minneapolis, a few days after my 35th birthday.
It’s 2020, and the world is dealing with the pandemic effects of Covid. It’s not going well for the United States.
I think about how I got here, to this point in my life. Was it watching the New Yankee Workshop on weekends with my dad? Was it Mr. Bokern who showed me how to write thoughtfully about almost anything in my high school freshman history class? Was it Randy who hired me on part-time when I graduated from journalism school?
Was it my mom who indulged all of my wacky creative impulses, including nearly a decade of playing host to band practices and house-shakingly loud music? Was it Monica, who gave me my first real job with benefits and shot in the publishing world?
Was it Jim, who took me on video shoots and shared the ins and outs of full-time freelancing and encouraged me to pick up a camera? Was it any of the other many influences I’ve encountered?
The answer, of course, is all of the above (and more). I’m the product of all of those who aided me along the way, who inspired me, who cared enough to help me along.
I’ve been reflecting on this aphorism a lot lately: “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.” It rings loud and clear for me today. As woodworkers, we benefit directly from trees planted before we were born. Counting the rings on the end of a board is a great way to reflect on the passage of time.
On a more philosophical bent, I’m thinking about doing things to make the world a better place long after I’m gone. Creating any kind of lasting change isn’t easy. We can donate money, offer our time and devote ourselves to learning more about different cultures. One single person can have a huge impact.
Even though personal and societal politics have gotten very divisive, instead of feeling pain or sorrow, I feel hope. I’m an optimist, and I see so many people out in the world doing good, building upon the progress that was made by previous generations. Though I may not live to see all the wonderful things the future has in store, I still plan on doing my best to make sure tomorrow is better than today. Planting trees is a good start.
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