A few years ago, a tree fell on my next door neighbor’s house and its branches fell across mine. The tree had been about 60 feet tall and a crane was required to lift it off of our roofs. The tree removal company’s representative said that because of the position of the houses and the size of the tree, a large crane that could lift 70 tons was necessary.
The next day when the crane, the crane operator, and the operator’s assistant arrived, the crane operator was clearly not happy. All that was available was a 35 ton crane and so what should have been a routine job was now difficult. Since the crane was small, it did not have the height or leverage of a big crane. Instead of parking the big crane on level ground in front of the houses and lifting the tree straight back into the woods, the smaller crane had to be balanced on a hill to the side of the houses and the tree swung out sideways to avoid decks, windows, and other houses. Though it took over an hour of preparation, the tree was finally lifted away. Other than some minor damage to my neighbor’s gutter and a board on his deck, it went well.
The assistant stood beside me the entire time describing the process. He was impressed with the crane operator’s expertise. The assistant said he probably would not be able to handle a tree like this for at least two or three more years. The crane operator, who had been working with cranes for over 20 years, said he had spent the evening before drawing out different scenarios. Though he made it look easy, he said it was one of the most difficult jobs he had done in a while. If there had been a slip, the tree would have demolished my neighbor’s roof, upper floor, or deck.
When someone makes a task look easy, we often fail to recognize the skill involved. I had never watched someone maneuver a crane or thought about the expertise required. If I had not spoken with the assistant, it never would have occurred to me that this was challenging.
We are accustomed to a certain level of proficiency when interacting with others. Have you ever become impatient with a person who is learning a new task like a young driver who is driving so slowly and carefully he backs up traffic or a new cashier who cannot figure out a store’s cash register? Yet we have all been a novice at some point. Do you remember the first time you cooked or ironed, or your first day at your first job? If you can smile or wince at the memory, you have probably come a long way since then.
We have spent a lifetime developing our skills. Though our abilities may seem routine to us, it would be hard for someone else to replicate all that we do in a normal day in its entirety. An indicator of experience or skill is how smoothly and easily we perform tasks, but like the crane operator’s assistant, we all need to begin somewhere and have the patience to learn and allow our abilities to grow.