Have you ever heard the story of The Three Bricklayers? I hadn’t—until recently:
A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.”As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood and smiled and replied with a gleam in his eye, “I am building a cathedral.”
In the past two years, I’ve been working on a series of poetry books, as well as animated excerpts from my books. When I shared these with a friend, they were thrown off guard and asked surprisingly why didn’t I start when I was younger?
I gracefully answered that I was working on other palettes: assisting the artistic growth of my children so they could create their futures; restoration projects like our home and, most important, a successful family. I’ve thought a lot about that question.
This wasn’t always for my own direct plans, but implementing and executing the precise plans of others. They were the big picture, and I dealt with the details. And that was my happy place. I loved being in the background, carefully and vigilantly connecting the walls of my life and that of my family.
To many people—on the surface—I was a bricklayer. Just a nurse. Just a stay-at-home mom. Quiet roles.
It occurred to me after this conversation that I’ve been building my own cathedral; engaged and working with purpose toward the bigger picture for a long time, with each and every brick a necessary part of something significant.
A rock solid foundation has always been my goal. My loyalty to the project was endless. It’s completion, monumental.
What can the architect accomplish without the bricklayers? The hospitals without the nurses and the families without someone to keep the machine well-oiled and running smoothly? We have to remind ourselves that the daily quiet, small steps we’re taking are creating something of value to the world. We’re producing work that MATTERS.
Why is it important for us to view ourselves and our work as significant?
When we view ourselves and our work as important, then we also understand our purpose—and the significant cost for not getting our work done. The stakes are too high to stand still.
Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr spoke to a group of students at Barratt Jr High School in Philadelphia. His question to the students: “What is your life’s blueprint?”
This feature from the Seattle Times and the estate of Dr. King is a beautiful and poignant reminder that if we have a proper and solid blueprint when building the structure of our lives, then our lives will have ultimate significance.
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music… No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr)
It doesn't matter if you’re the bricklayer or the architect. What matters is finding what makes you happy, what makes you feel good, and that you do it 100%.
The story of The Three Bricklayers is a tale of two attitudes. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. If your attitude is positive, you can face life’s challenges with a firm belief and a proactive perspective. Your perspective can determine whether you view your problems with desperation and despair, or whether you confront your challenges with courage, perseverance and resilience.
There are the distractions and the unexpected that aren’t a part of our blueprints. And masonry buildings are brittle structures and one of the most vulnerable under a strong shaking. It takes great effort not to get swept away in the earthquake and buried under the rubble.
Throw an illness (like celiac disease) into our life’s master plan, or broken bones from a serious bicycle accident, and now we’re paying attention to our fragility. We don’t feel so rock solid all of a sudden, which can momentarily consume us. Battered, Not Broken.
But that’s why we build the foundation—with passion and purpose—so there’s solid strength to handle it. Challenging times can fortify our faith, strengthen our character and deepen our resolve.
And we need reinforcement.
One of the things as you age, is you become wiser. Life isn’t a competition, or a game. As soon as your blueprint turns into either, you remove the integrity: which is to do good, work smart and hard to help others, and to be rock solid. No matter what comes your way.
As we lay our bricks, let’s do it like Michelangelo painted pictures and with painstaking excellence. Let’s respect that all walls must be joined properly to their adjacent walls so the ones loaded in their weak direction can take advantage of the good lateral resistance offered by walls loaded in their strong direction. Further, walls need to be tied to the roof and foundation to preserve their overall integrity.
It doesn’t matter when you choose to give your time and talents a place to give back. What matters is that there’s respect for the process.
There’s no right or wrong. Challenges can become opportunity, and vulnerability makes way for a powerful and authentic way to live. Some of us are Young Virtuosos and others of us are Old Masters. The pace is the pace.
An often overlooked and incredibly important aspect of finding what pushes our buttons is the need to be well. We can't schedule inspiration or force it into existence, so we have to create a favorable environment to receive it.
When you nourish your body, you feed your soul. And being strong and healthy will open your world up to desire and inspiration—both which transform the way we perceive our own capabilities.
Celiac disease is a quiet illness, and one I’ve learned that not everyone takes seriously. “Going gluten-free” has become a mainstream diet choice, however untreated celiac can be life threatening. There are no drugs to treat celiac disease and there is no cure.
Celiac may not have been in my original master blueprint, however the diagnosis that once made me afraid to eat, has led to me to discover a love for food—and life.
The beauty of art—whether it be poetry, painting, music or mathematics—lies in the process. We enrich our lives by opening up the power of our imagination to discover our own insights and resilience through creative problem solving and self-awareness.
Keep the balance as best you can with your feet firmly planted on the ground, say thank you and breathe. Small efforts go a long way when practiced regularly.
About Jet Widick
Jet Widick, the author and poet behind the popular Gluten Free Sage blog, is a wellness expert and advocate for Celiac disease who has worked to share her story in hopes that others will find inspiration and hope. Jet, a nickname her sons bestowed her once she became healthy and transformed herself, has seen creative endeavors blossom since she published her first two collections of poems. She and her partner in crime, Kristen Alden, continue to expand their exploration of poetry with projects like their Poetry in Motion series: http://www.jetwidick.com/animated-poetry/
Website: www.jetwidick.com and www.glutenfreesage.com