My wife and I just had a landscaping project done at our house. As I watched the crew work their magic with flagstones, pea gravel, and dirt, I was reminded of a recent podcast in which Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, talked from a doctor’s perspective about the difference between fixing and healing and the need for both.
Although one doesn’t normally think of landscapers and Surgeons General in the same thought, in this case they have a lot in common. I found that Dr. Murthy’s message applied to the crew doing our landscaping as well as to just about everyone involved in the trades or service industries.
The initial reason for our project was to correct some water leakage we were experiencing around the foundation of our lower level. The leakage was caused by poor drainage of rainwater away from the house.
Fixing the problem was pretty straightforward: install a new downspout capable of handling the flow during heavy rainfalls and grade the area away from the house. But it was the healing it brought that caught my attention.
The area being landscaped was an unpaved, gravel walkway that I had pretty much neglected for quite some time. Runoff from an adjoining embankment had built up over the years, gradually shifting the grade toward our house rather than away from it, which led to the water issue.
Every time I would walk down this path, I was reminded of the need to do something about it, but it was never a priority. And the angst I felt because of how it detracted from the beauty of our home had been bothering me for some time.
In the trades or service industries, the physical manifestation of the jobs we perform is just one element of our work, but it’s not the whole picture. Healing often lies beneath the surface. And since many of us aren’t medical professionals who have been trained to deal with emotional healing, we don’t recognize it. Too often we also don’t appreciate the importance of it.
This is why soft skills such as communication, empathy, adaptability, listening, self-awareness, and even emotional intelligence are such important parts of every job and every interaction with our customers, both internal and external. These are the skills that assist with the healing. These are the skills that address the anxiety, pain, guilt, blame, isolation, and hurts that frequently accompany the problem that we were hired to fix.
In the case of my landscaping project, the healing part started just about as quickly as the fixing part. Rather than feeling puny every time I look at the walkway, I’m now taking pictures of it to share with friends. My mood seems to be a little brighter when I’m in the newly landscaped area. Even the flowers we have planted along that walkway seem a little cheerier!
The services we provide our customers offer us a front-seat opportunity to have the same healing impact on their lives. Sometimes, we just have to be aware of the healing that needs to take place.