Saturday, July 31, 2021 | Dhu al-hijjah 21, 1442 H
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Not all effort is rewarded, and not all progress is earned
Ray Petersen
Ray Petersen

Bill wanted to be a carpenter, a woodworker who was known as a ‘chippy’ back in the day, because you would always find them at work surrounded by woodchips and shavings, as they constructed doors, kitchen units, tables, chairs, cupboards, beds, and goodness knows what else in their carpenters shops, not unlike the carpentry units you will find in the industrial sectors around the Sultanate, except that at the beginning, and at the end of the day, their workshops were so immaculately clean you could “eat your dinner off the floor,” as they used to jest.

Anyway, my mate left school and signed up to be a carpenter’s apprentice for five years. The agreement, a formal one, was registered with the government agencies, and was signed by the employer, the apprentice’s parents, the lad himself and an industry overseer. The deal was that the apprentice would work for five years, be given a half-day each week to attend skills and assessment classes at the local technical college, be developed as a carpenter by the employer and his journeymen, and at the end of their time would be certificated and registered as a tradesman, with the provision that he had reached an appropriate level of knowledge and skill, and displayed sufficient good character to represent the industry.

I’ll never forget how excited he was on his first day going off to work, with his lunchbox, and a thermos full of hot tea, and I swear he must have been half an hour early for work on day one. He was introduced around the team and showed where everything was, given a ‘chippy’s’ apron, but no toolbelt or tools, just a broom, brush and shovel, and told to keep his eyes and ears open, and keep ‘the place’ clean! “Oh, I know what this is,” he thought, “this is a prank they play on the new boys. So, I’ll say nuthin’ and just fit in till they have had their fun.”

All day he toiled at the workshop, and did a good job too apparently, but he admitted he was terribly disappointed not to be ‘tooling’ with the others. A few days later, at the end of the week, everybody downed tools at 4 pm, instead of five, and Bill was the last one left working. The boss stuck his head out of the door and gruffly asked if Bill was going to “sleep in the workshop, or pick up his pay and go home?” The new apprentice didn’t need asking twice, and hung up his apron, stored his brushes and stud away, and, a bit bashfully entered the office not knowing how to ask for his pay, or, well… anything.

“Here you go lad,” said the boss. “That’s your pay, and there’s a slip inside that tells what tax, you pay, the tool money, and how much you’re left with, okay? So, how’s your first week been?” Bill said he mumbled a bit about the sweeping and cleaning, finishing with, “but it’ll be alright.” The boss looked at him and his face must have softened a bit as he said, “You’ve got a lot more cleaning up ahead of you boy, but I tell you, everyone of those boys that work on the shop floor said good things about you.

You haven’t sulked, haven’t sniveled or complained, when many would have. And with a cheery chuck around the ears, told Billy to keep his chin up, “You’ve done alright, and you’ll be alright lad, coz it looks like you’re made of the right stuff!”

Bill never forgot that life is not about what you want, what you hope for, wish for, or think you deserve, but rather more what can be achieved with hard work, good grace and dignity. Entitlement is little more than a parcel of selfishness, wrapped in a lack of respect.


Ray Petersen

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