The Cabinet (aka: 40by40 Admission of Failure)

I didn’t make the 40 posts by my 40th birthday, a fact which surprises no one and for which many are rejoicing.  I did, however, write one further (insufferably long and possibly rambling) post before I ride off into the sunset to shop for a recliner with plenty of lower back support and to find a doctor more familiar with the aches and pains of the elderly.

I guess this post is for posterity, whatever THAT means.

There is a part of the building where I work which has become a favorite location, of sorts, for me.  It is in a shop area, a series of rooms which contain benches and shelves and drawers and rolling carts full of tools and hardware and metallic doodads, the uses of which mostly baffle a non-handy guy like me.

In the back of the shop, where I am told the incredible and mystical art of “welding” takes place, there is a steel cabinet.  When I say that they don’t make them like this anymore, I would bet all of the change in my bank account that this is literally true; this thing, while shaped like metal cabinets you might see in any classroom or office, is made entirely of steel.  It has obviously been painted and repainted over the years, and its hard metal facade bears innumerable small dents and nicks and scuffs caused by decades of use in an industrial area.

It stands with a sort of proud defiance, looking like it could bear another few decades and not be bothered in the least.  I cannot imagine having to move the thing, which may be why it is still around.

It is what is inside this cabinet which makes this a favorite place.  On one of the heavy steel shelves, someone has placed a piece of masking tape which reads,

“Hold until 1958”

It should be noted that any item currently resting on that particular shelf is most certainly not the item referred to by the tape’s admonition.

So, why do I like this cabinet, and why do I mention it now?  I like it because sometime around 1958, long before I was born, someone in the building where I work was going about their day, and placed something important on that shelf.  It was something that was needed, or which at least couldn’t be discarded quite yet.  I obviously have no idea what it was, and have no notion of who the person was.  I don’t know why the item was needed, or how important, at the time, keeping the item was to the success of that person’s job function or to the bottom line of the company.

Here’s what I believe though: nearly 60 years after someone scrawled a note on a piece of tape, placing a special significance on whatever was stored in that cabinet, whatever that thing WAS doesn’t matter anymore. That item is long gone, and whatever business need caused my colleague-past to make sure that the item was kept is long gone as well.

I’m a worrier. In work and life, my tendency is to stress. Like my colleague-past, I “label things,” so to speak, earnestly doing the tasks that I feel are expected of me, arranging and sorting life so as not to “let any balls drop.”  Which is fine and good, but more often than not I worry and stress over how that “thing” which I am responsible for is going to turn out. I live in the stress of the moment, and tend to let things – perceived expectations, slights, shortcomings, fears of failure – weigh on me.

But, when I see that piece of tape I wonder NOT about the thing, but about the person who left it.  I wonder what their life looked like in the intervening years, wonder who loved them, wonder whose lives they changed by being, wonder If they had children or grandchildren, wonder what their hobbies were, wonder if they believed in God, wonder where else they worked or if they retired from here. I wonder if they’ve passed on, wonder who came to pay them respect, and wonder how they were grieved.

I wonder, long after the effort of their daily work ceased to be of paramount importance, what legacy they left.

It’s always a reminder to live life in light of those ultimately important life aspects, those things which will last long after that ” labeled thing” ceases to be important or even remembered at all.  It’s a reminder to work as well as I can but to recognize that one day my work will not be nearly as important as any legacy which will have encompassed it.

I want that for me and my family.

And I wish that for you as well!

Blessings, and thanks for reading. That is something I will never take for granted.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go take my pills, ice my joints, and yell at any neighborhood kids anywhere near my lawn!


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