Tangible Legacy of Effort
One of the key elements of the hobby/activity of woodworking that I like is there is an actual physical product at the end that you are able touch, hold, feel, and enjoy. It is such a radical departure from what the majority of our modern day lives have evolved into.
An example I've discussed in the past is the simple step stool. Something you might make for new parents in your family to use by the tub as they bath their kids at night. Or to help a niece/nephew reach the sink to brush their teeth. Or perhaps to help reach those tall shelves in the kitchen. Something that'll likely morph purposes throughout decades of useful life.
Building such a project is really simple. Could even be considered a beginner level project at it's functional level while still challenging the expert. You can take your time in thinking through it's design, build, and finish considering its purpose, the aesthetics of it's destination, the personality of it's recipient and maybe the ambition you want your skill to reach.
Then over the next few evenings you enjoy the act of picking the perfect piece of lumber, milling it's parts, creating the joinery, adding the curves and sculptural elements you envision, and finally applying, polishing, and buffing the finish to perfection. It's free time spent with no outside pressure but the ambition you have for yourself. Time spent in an activity that requires just enough focus to push the normal troubles of modern life into the background. Time spent where your mind can wander as it's let off the leash of outside constraints. Thoughts of family, friends, future, past, and present waft in and out as you work the more relaxed aspects of the build. It's your hands, your tools, your material, and the clock on the wall is just there to tell you the time and not pressure you of a deadline. The creation is selfish as you recognize the activity is actually an elixir for this modern digital life. Temporary relief for sure, but still
Giving this creation away is just a bonus. Yes, the recipient will never realize all the effort you expelled to learning and practicing this skill. Yes they'll never realize that if you earned minimum wage making it they'd have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it. Yes, your work is in for a hard life of abuse and neglect. But through it all it will be cherished. Your boost in pride and emotional self-worth are just a bonus.
The funny thing though is... it's a bonus that'll return regular dividends for years. Every time you see it being used... bonus, Then each time a new member joins that young family and it's returned to have a new name carved in... bonus. And when you are old and gray, no longer able to spend time in the shop making for others, and you spot a well worn, scuffed, paint peeling, play-doh stained stool that has numerous names carved in it (likely covered up by bathtub toys)... compounded dividends. All for just a few hours of light effort decades earlier.
I was thinking about this as I was destroying the public school records of mine from 7 years ago. All those reports and spreadsheets that I'd spent weeks preparing. The extreme pressure bosses, timelines, and the environment put on you to volunteer all your free time completing. The activity that kept the machine running. The water molecule in the whirlpool of busyness that makes up the time flush of most peoples professional life. The 'work' that two weeks later won't be thought of again and seven years later will be erased for all time. The aspect of being a teacher that seems to triple stress levels, take up 3/4 of a work week and most of weekends and yet really wasn't relevant to leading a classroom of learning students. I imagine every single modern career in the world has similar aspects to their daily routine.
While destroying those records I was thinking, where's the bonus? When I'm old and gray, will that time spent on busywork even really matter?
They say that some of the biggest drivers of the current craze in hand tool woodworking, and for that matter all other craft out there, is coming from people in careers unique to our modern times. Many from the Gen X & Y eras, or as some have labeled them, "the me generations'. I've got to believe it's because people are beginning to realize the analog aspect of making physical items, of use in their immediate lives, is grounding and makes their lives more enjoyable. It's both altruistic and selfish at same time. Or maybe they've taken their parents advice to heart. Learning that prosperity comes from diversification and craft is just part of a well rounded lifetime portfolio.
People spend time focusing on health, religion, politics and entertainment in their free time today. Maybe today we ought to also add craft into that mix as a given.
So please help us spread the word about woodworking or craft in general. There is a tangible legacy to the effort in craft. That it's always worth the effort to learn, create, and share with others because the benefits now and compound dividends in the future are huge.