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Lifes Lessons: A Trip to the Hardware Store

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I guess throughout my life so far I have accumulated knowledge from a lot of different places: school, home, the library, but also more discreet places like the humane society or the swimming pool. I have learned history and geography, how to take care of numerous species of animals, and about water pressure and how, when you dive deep under water, the pressure makes your ears ring and ache.

Sure, all these things are necessary, but more importantly than all of these things is when I learned about people and the world. I learned these from my dad while walking through a hardware store, our feet making chee chee noises on the bland, grey floor. My father didn’t know he was teaching me and he probably never will, but such a mundane and little everyday thing might have changed my life forever.

We were walking through the labyrinthine cemented hallways, looking for boards in order to finish some random project we had been working on. We stopped in front of some lumber and began grabbing boards. I started piling them on the giant, cold metal cart, but then my dad stopped me.
“You have to check them first; we want only the best boards,” he said and then proceeded to take all of them out of the cart and inspect them. I stood patiently, smelling the thick and heady wood scent and watching the foreign people walk by, while my dad eyed up the planks.
“See, this one here is crooked. This is a bad board…if you nail into it, it will snap in half. And-and, see this one here? It has wood splinters sticking out, they can be harmful.”
I nodded; this all made sense. I watched while my dad put all the “good” boards onto the cart. I noticed something strange about some of the boards he had chosen.
“Hey Dad, what about these,” I pointed, “these all have the stores logo inked into the side.”
“No, no. That’s ok…we can just sand that off when we get home. It will be gone in a few strokes with sandpaper.”
After we had chosen enough boards to complete our project we wheeled them to the check-out lane.
“These are some good quality boards you have picked out,” the cashier commented, winking at me with a crooked smile that only the elderly can pull off. I nodded politely and ran the lumber out to the truck. We drove home in silence, listening to only the countryside and mild traffic.
That evening was spent casually without any life-changing revelations for either of us; spent reading and watching the night take over the dim light.
I bet that you are thinking about how this was all just a random day looking for wood, and I did too…until the night after when something came to me.
I realized that my dad represented the world; represented society, and the boards were people. We only want the straight, smooth ones. We don’t want the bent ones that will snap under weight or the ones that can hurt us. We don’t mind the marked ones; little flaws in comparison…we can always sand off the bad parts until they become the same indistinguishable tools. They are all the same, the ones society desires, and have little originality.
Slowly all the unpicked boards are carted off to the side and left behind where they will sit in their imperfections, gathering dust in thick layers.
I have since then pledged to take any boards. I will NOT check them for knots or bends. I will NOT disregard them because of their appearances. I will choose them and the other until none of the long wooden slabs are left behind.
I know it sounds cheesy, I am perfectly aware of that fact…but it is true, and to think, I learned all of this on a trip to the hardware store.





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