I still remember how my grandfather taught me to polish shoes as a kid. He showed me first how you press down on one side of the flat, round Cherry Blossom shoe polish box. I remember giggling at the distinct ‘plop’ sound as it opened. Then with a cloth, I had to first smear a little polish evenly on to the surface of the shoe which I was told to ‘wear’ on my left hand. Then I had to find a fine bristled brush mind you, and not a hard bristled one (as we were dealing with leather, not enamel he reminded me) and rub over the shoes lightly and briskly until we procure a fine sheen. The gentle, patient manner in which he taught me stayed with me forever and seeped into to all things that I had to polish. Similarly instructions for the white canvas shoes followed and then brass and silver. There was a method to everything; each had to be handled differently and it went without saying, one had to have patience to learn and perfect an art and give the task on hand its due. The incentive was the shine at the end of the job and seeing that brought an inexplicable joy that I had done that!
In retrospect those lessons from my grandfather stay with me even now. Even today, when I have to polish something, I have to sit down with my wares, spread them out, arrange them in an order and then go about the task giving it my 100%. Some would call this OCD but I call it ‘doing a job well’, giving it its due, doing one thing at a time with your complete attention on it and finally taking pride in the end result.
This aspect has permeated to other aspects of my life. When I have to make something better, bring out the best in it, make it shine, I sit down with all that is required. Patience, time and the willingness to work. More than anything I enjoy the process, however maddening it may be to others. It’s all or nothing. No short-cuts! Whether it is teaching, writing, cooking, cleaning or just polishing I have to do it my way, with all my heart. I realise my grandfather was not just teaching me how to do a task but preparing me for life. I would go on to giving all that I undertake my 100%. This is especially valid in this era of multi-tasking.
As I age, when I am on the task of polishing, I am not just doing a perfected art, but reliving those quiet, insightful moments with my grandfather each time and it is comforting. I am sure he is still standing somewhere, a reluctant smile decorating his lips which he will make sure I don’t see because then I will get smug and stop trying to get better and taking pride in the fact that he has taught me well.
I wish my grandfather had been around to teach the present generation. God knows they could use some patience!