Still at Work by Conny Hubbard

AllthingsNewThe door to the workshop creaked as it opened. I looked up from my work to see who it was. I acknowledged the man’s presence with a nod and invited him in to have a look around. I had never seen him here before and I wasn’t certain what he wanted. He shoved his cap back with one hand but kept the other in his pocket. With a sour look on his face he scanned the room.

“How can I help you? I asked, wiping sawdust off my hands with a rag as I walked toward him.

“Oh, I wanted to see if I could get a small table but all I see in here is junk!” he muttered angrily. He pointed to a dresser and said, “Just look at this piece. The handles are missing and it has ugly gauges all over it. And that chair over there looks like it would fall apart the first time someone sat on it.”

He turned and his eyes stopped at the sight of a couch that was in the process of being re-upholstered.

“Who would want that piece of junk? He said loudly.

“Junk?” A voice sounded from the back. My boss, the master carpenter, came closer.

“Who is calling my work junk?” he asked.

“Well,” the man scratched his scraggly beard, “all I see is broken and banged up pieces of furniture.”

Uninvited, he walked through the shop and pointed out the flaws of each piece he looked at. I cringed with each cutting remark he made. The very things my master and I had already discussed and enjoyed planning on how we would repair them and make them beautiful and functional again.

The master’s eyes followed him and he slightly shook his head. Then he motioned with his arm.

“These are my treasures,” he said, lovingly looking upon each one.

“I’m still working on them. The work takes time. Some of the more finished and beautiful pieces have been in my workshop for quite some time and I’ve spent many hours working on them. Others just came in and I’m in the process of fixing them.

“This table here,” he pointed to an unfinished small piece in the far corner of the workshop.
“I’m working on that one right now,” he said, “it’s not finished yet, but it will be perfect by the time the woman who ordered it comes and picks it up for her daughter who is getting married next month.

“See this chair here?” he pointed to a crooked chair with a broken leg and paint splatters all over.

“This one came in like this. I will strip it of all the paint spots and put a completely new finish on it. The broken leg needs to be replaced and the others just need to be glued back in place. It’ll be better than new.

“And that couch you called junk,” he said, “has faithfully served a family of seven for nearly twenty years. It has been through babies held in their mother’s arms through rambunctious 12 year olds jumping on it to teenagers curling up on it with book for hours. It could tell you lots of stories. The family could have just put it out in the trash but they brought it to me so it could be fixed up. She still has a good many years of service left in her.”

With that the master smiled to himself and nodded happily.

The man still looked skeptical. I could feel my temper rising up. How dare he insult my master like this? It was obvious he had no clue of carpentry work yet he came in here and put down everything he did.

“John,” the master called to me, “bring me the box that came in this morning.”

“Yes, sir,” I answered and quickly turned to get the large box sitting by my master’s work bench. I picked it up and brought it over to where the man stood. Gently I lowered it to the ground and opened the top flaps to expose the pile of broken pieces of wood.

The master reached into the box and carefully retrieved a piece of wood that looked like a short but ornate and beautifully curved leg belonging to a dresser but it was obviously badly damaged.

“A lady brought this in,” he said softly, “it’s a small dresser I had made for a customer of mine. Her husband had broken it to pieces in a fit of rage. She was terribly distressed and asked if I could do something about it.”

“Of course,” he continued thoughtfully, “this kind of repair work takes time. Some parts I have to rebuild from scratch.”

Silently I wondered why my master would put up with this faultfinder and take time away from his important work to explain to this guy how things worked around here.

I watched my master as he gently put the piece back into the box. I remembered when he had made this little dresser. It grieved him when he saw his work torn apart like this. But he was not only good at making stuff, he was an expert at repair work. From watching him work, I knew that a box of broken pieces would not look like the original furniture he had made. My master’s creativity wouldn’t allow it. He had a way of using the broken pieces and making them into a work of art. The more broken and damaged something was, the more he made it into something utterly amazing. I was so privileged to be working along his side and seeing life through his compassionate eyes.

With that thought my rising anger faded away. In the past I would have wanted to call fire down from heaven upon this man who insulted my master, but now I felt only pity for him. He lacked the ability to see beyond what was right in front of him. He had no vision and was completely deficient of faith. But then – if focused on that lack in him would I not be guilty of the same thing as he was? And now I understood why the master took time to open his eyes and that he was giving him right now, right in front of me, the ability to see the pieces of furniture through his own eyes.

The man’s attitude had changed. He lowered his head and politely asked if it was all right if he came back to look around again. My master smiled, shook his hand and told him he was welcome anytime.

©Conny Hubbard, February, 2015

Photos provided by TLC Finishes –,