“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” (Henry Ford)
On the surface, this quote is quite straight forward and easy. I know from experience that when I have cut or chopped wood I have worked up quite a sweat. I can remember being on camping trips when I ended up pulling off layers as I worked my way through a log. Later, when gathered around the campfire I was warmed again as the wood crackled and burned.
I think, though, there is a deeper meaning to be had with this simple sentence. To me it also speaks to the benefits of being industrious and self-sufficient. The warmth comes not just from the cutting and burning of wood, but metaphorically from the fact that taking on a job and completing it yourself will warm your heart doubly.
I am not the most handy person in the world. I long since have learned my limits when it comes to building and fixing things. But, there are a few things that fall within those limits. There are a few projects I have undertaken that stretched my own capabilities, and when they were complete, I felt a sense of accomplishment that went beyond just the notion of having the thing I set out to build.
In our bathroom there is a cupboard. It is a fairly large space that we use for a number of things, including our towels and linens. I noticed that there was space on the back of one of the doors to put up a shelf which would swing with the door and allow for storage of shampoo, soap and the like. I looked around for a shelf to buy that would fit the space, and came up empty. So, I decided to try making one myself. I bought the wood, came up with a design, and set to work. That was probably 15 years ago, and the shelf is still on the back of the door. It isn’t the prettiest piece of furniture or shelving we’ve ever owned, but it works. And when I look at it I still occasionally get that sense of accomplishment.
When I have worked hard to solve a problem on my own, I have learned immensely from it. Whether a home project or a work assignment, the sense of accomplishment is as warming as the task being completed.
I am not one of those fiercely independent people who doesn’t seek help. I still know where my limits are, and when a project or problem truly exceeds them, I will reach out for help. But, I also know that there is great pride and warmth to be had from tackling difficult tasks on my own.