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Reverence: Do We Still Have It In Our Industry?

Wayne Lee Headshot
There is a wealth of knowledge represented among the people who were instructors at this Advanced School in June 1998. Here are some of them (with me in front), along with some students from that school.
There is a wealth of knowledge represented among the people who were instructors at this Advanced School in June 1998. Here are some of them (with me in front), along with some students from that school.

I want to start with a quote from a book by Paul Woodruff called “Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue”:

“Power without reverence is aflame with arrogance, while service without reverence is smoldering toward rebellion. Politics without reverence is blind to the general good and deaf to advice from people who are powerless. (…) Because reverence fosters leadership and education. Most important, because reverence kindles warmth in friendship and family life. And because without reverence, things fall apart. People do not know how to respect each other and themselves. An army cannot tell the difference between what it is and a gang of bandits. Without reverence, we cannot explain why we should treat the natural world with respect. Without reverence, a house is not a home, a boss is not a leader, an instructor is not a teacher. Without reverence, we would not even know how to learn reverence. To teach reverence, you must find the seeds of reverence in each person and help them grow.”

Being honest, this has been the hardest article to write. Not because my heart is not in it, but because it hurts. I had to read that quote above a few times to let it set in. I believe this covers most of our day-to-day lives. How we hold ourselves and others with reverence or, in many moments, with a lack of reverence, tells more about who we are, not what we hope we are. 

I want to share with you a few days that set me on the path to writing this. 

Social media has and is a large part of the problem. We are bold behind a keyboard—fearless with hurtful comments—and, many times, just disrespectful. We are all in multiple social media groups, and for the most part we enjoy the interactions with friends, contractors and other folks in the flooring trades. I was just scrolling through, looking at posts and jobs being done, as well as people asking questions. Then there was a post from a new person in the trade. They were asking a question … a harmless, honest question. I did not post a reply until the end of the conversation because I wanted to reflect on the question, as well as see how others would respond. Most of the comments were very respectful, insightful and, most of all, helpful. Then there was the one person who felt it important to let the new tradesman know how uninformed, misinformed and simple the question was. What he wrote was hurtful, mean and uncalled for … and that is when I responded to the hurtful person. My comment back was not ugly, just to the point, with a firm underscore of disappointment. Why must we prove our knowledge to a person who lacks the insight or information? Why were the ones who gave support and filled in the blank for this new tradesman not good enough? Lack of reverence.

Not long after, it was a new day and not a keyboard encounter—this was a face-to-face moment. We were talking about getting floors flat, and working through a hurdle with a job that was hand-nailed, skipped-nailed and moving. A multi-disc unit was dishing out the floor, cutting the butt ends more than it needed to. My recommendation was, in my words, the “old school” hard-plate—a 16-inch flat firm disc that will not ride on the ends or dish the soft grain. While I was sharing the importance of the working up to higher grits to remove the scratch, making sure not to reintroduce the imperfections, someone walked over and said, “old school is for old men, and you have no clue how to sand a floor.” Lack of reverence.

One more encounter: This was a social meeting set up to just have fun around a few snacks and drinks. This one got under my skin a bit, but thankfully I was able to walk away. I am a HUGE fan of the leaders and mentors that it has been my honor to work with—floormen from the ’60s through the current date. Many retired and enjoying the fruits of the life they laid. Many have passed and left an impression that will carry through history for years. The way they made my life better with their time and talents? In a word, priceless. Can you just imagine hand-nailing floors? Cutting flooring with a hand saw? Dealing with power with a twist-in fuse box? I can’t and won’t disrespect any of them. They did not have a road to follow; instead they made the road to follow. They built our future and set in place a trade that can and will last as long as we hope and wish. They helped invent the tools, ideas, technology in place today. However, there is that one person that seems to be self-promoting. He said that those old guys could not do half of what is done today, and their standard of quality was lacking. “My jobs blow them away, they could not do a patterned floor; that would have been so far beyond them.” Lack of reverence.

Well, now it’s time to get on my soapbox, hoping my comments won’t be belittling or hurtful. I would ask again to read the quote at the beginning of this post and get a good understanding of reverence. This can cover our personal lives as well as professional lives. Am I guilty of lack of reverence? Yes, and like I said, that is why it hurts. So in order to keep a humble heart and correct direction for the need of reverence in today’s world, here I go.

Let’s reintroduce words like meekness, kindness, compassion and care. Let’s share our ideas without disrespecting others, without doing it just to build ourselves up. I am amazed at the lack of common courtesy. Just the other day a funeral was passing by, I pulled over as a sign of respect to the family. A few other cars did, too, but most did not. Yes, sir, and yes, ma’am—once common etiquette. Let’s hold the door (for everyone). Share your time when needed and be willing to lift someone up when they are down. Offer advice, not criticism, and pick and choose words wisely, because words can hurt.

This does not mean you become a pushover or submit to unjust behavior, it means knowing when and how to address the day with reverence. Make sure that when we shut our eyes for the day’s end we know that in our heart and mind, we can rest. I’m not sure how to end this, and at the same time my hope it does not end here. Let’s be better. Let’s not allow the current world climate to control our heart and actions. 

I hope my little article hits a spot in your heart. Let’s take the steps together and build each other up, and don’t be the three examples above.One of my mentors and a dear friend in the industry, Dick Hammond. Here we are teaching together at the old NOFMA School in Memphis in the late '90s.One of my mentors and a dear friend in the industry, Dick Hammond. Here we are teaching together at the old NOFMA School in Memphis in the late '90s.

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