Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Today I took this photograph of a blast furnace to my office. It is now displayed in a prominent place. I shared the story with several people, and now I shall share it with you:

I grew up in steel towns and with a steel family. My father was an engineer for a large steel company. He was quite a brilliant man and had a couple of patents on a new design of blast furnace (used in steel making). He traveled around the world for this company. In my youth, I knew the names of the steel mills, Clairton, Duquesne, and Homestead Works in Pennsylvania. Ohio Works in Youngstown. South Works in Chicago... I could go on and on.

By the 1980s, the town I grew up in was all but abandoned, the steel mills were silent. They no longer belched smoke, which in steel-mill culture is devastation. I was taught from the time I was an infant that when there was smoke in the air, it meant that men were working and families had food on their tables. This sounds like another century, doesn't it? Well, it was.

By the 1990s, my father was in a nursing home. Above his bed was a large framed photograph of one of his blast furnaces. I asked him how he felt about all those steel mills being gone, all that work, all his life's creative efforts went into - all gone. The blast furnace in the photo was gone. I thought this would be devastating for him.

He sanguinely said that he earned a good living and had a good life. He really didn't care if his creations lived forever. He did what he enjoyed doing and made a living doing it, beyond that, he wasn't much interested.

I often think of this. It astounded me at the time. Now, I am striving toward getting this attitude down. I can have pride in the quality of my work while I am doing it, but I need to let go of what is beyond my control.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am working for a wage. That I get paid the same whether I get my way or not. Whether "they" listen to me or not. Yesterday I was absolutely beside myself because I was told we were going to do something the wrong way based on someone else's recommendation.

Well, today I confronted what I needed to confront and found out the other person lied. I exposed the other person for lying. Life is too short to try to make nice with people who lie, so I am not going to do that. And if there are repercussions, I will deal with them. I am willing.

But it is not all that important. Because in 50 years, not one soul will know what happened at work today. But I will have to answer for how I have behaved. And I want to be able to answer those questions easily.

The framed photo of the blast furnace needs to stay in my office for a while.

I thank God and my father for this lesson today.


dAAve said...


Syd said...

Your dad was a wise man.

Lou said...

Brave of you on the confrontation. I have a hard time with that.

Your dad was so right. I'm glad I have been involved in hands on patient care all my working life. I hear the wisdom of many, and see the foolishness of many more. I learn from them all. The saddest scenario to witness is someone near death still hanging on to the quarrels with family, or voicing bitterness over perceived unfairness life has handed them. The time to make peace is now.

Pammie said...

I miss my Dad and his stories