The Repair Shop

‘Everything is broken’

Bob Dylan

‘There’s a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in’

Leonard Cohen

This week I watched another episode of The Repair Shop. It’s an excellent programme in which items of great personal worth that have fallen into a state of disrepair, either as a result of neglect, misuse or simply the passage of time, are brought to a team of expert craftsmen and craftswomen for repair. We then watch as they apply all of their skill and experience to the task of restoring the inner workings and external appearance of the precious items. Slowly they are given back their former glory before being returned to their owners, all of whom are invariably delighted with what has been achieved in making what was once broken whole again.

Despite my utter incompetence in all things practical, why anyone would ever allow me to perform minor surgery on them I’ll never know, I found myself feeling envious of those I was watching, wishing I too worked in The Repair Shop. Until, that is, I realised how similar our job is to theirs.

Those who come to us are also of great value but have become broken, likewise due to having been either neglected, treated badly or as a result of simply becoming old. And it is our job to use all our skill and experience to bring about some kind of repair.

The artisans in the programme clearly derive a huge amount of satisfaction from their job and it left me wondering why it is that, if our jobs are alike in so many ways, we do not always experience the same sense of satisfaction that they do.

As I watched this weeks episode I was struck firstly by how all those who work in The Repair Shop seem to really care about the item they are working on, both in terms of appreciating its intrinsic worth as well as recognising its value to the one who brought it. And then there is the obvious love that they have for what they do, the enjoyment they get from the challenge of applying all of their expertise to the task in hand as they work out how best to effect a repair. And finally there is the the very apparent pleasure they experience when they see the joy their efforts bring about in those for whom they have worked.

All of which might give us some clues as to why we sometimes struggle to find the same degree of joy that those in the Repair Shop seem to experience and, more importantly perhaps, thus offer some pointers as to how we might go about deriving greater job satisfaction ourselves.

But before we do, it needs to be acknowledged the differences that exist between our world and that of those who appear on the TV programme. To watch ‘The Repair Shop’ is to spend an hour in a wonderfully reassuring place where everything can be fixed, where everything can be put right. The hectic reality of our daily working lives is, however, very different to the serenity of the world within The Repair Shop where only things of genuine value are brought and where those who work have all the time, space and equipment required to do their job properly. We, in contrast, with our limited resources, sometimes struggle to find the time to do properly those things that are of value, bombarded as we are by the constant demand to also attend to the seemingly relatively trivial. Furthermore, whereas those working in The Repair Shop are always hugely appreciated, we not infrequently feel like we are sometimes being taken for granted. And unlike those in the programme who invariably achieve all that they set out to do, we know all too well that we can’t fix everything. Inevitably we are not always as successful as we would like to be and, as a result, often have to face the fear of being criticised by those who cannot accept that we are unable to bring about the impossible.

Even so we would do well to value those who come to us for help. They really are of immense value. People have huge intrinsic worth and their health is something that is of the utmost importance to them. In the busyness of our working day this is something that is frequently lost as we all too easily end up seeing patients, not as individuals with genuine needs but as merely nuisances instead, ones who seem set on spoiling our day with their difficulties. In reality however, the majority of the problems that are presented are genuine, even if some are more significant and more appropriately brought to a doctor than others. Furthermore, people really are amazing creatures, intricately knitted together, a beautiful and complex amalgamation of the physical, emotional and spiritual, too complex indeed for any of us to fully understand. Perhaps then, if we are to recover some job satisfaction, we need to try to rediscover that sense of wonder that our increasingly frantic working lives have succeeded in squeezing out of us. And perhaps we also need to gain a greater appreciation of what a privilege it is to be involved in the important work of seeking to restore such a precious thing as a fellow human being who finds themselves in need of repair.

That said, it is of course not only our patients who are broken. We, some more than others, are broken too, physically, emotionally and spiritually, both inherently and as a result of circumstances be they our neglecting ourselves, our being treated badly by others, or simply as a consequence of long years in a job that has taken its toll. We all sometimes need the help of others if we are going to make it through – it’s no shame to ask for it. Because we too would sometimes benefit from being taken aside by a master craftsman, to place ourselves in the hands of one who genuinely values us, understands our inner workings and has all the skill, patience and kindness required to complete the good work he begins in putting us back together.

Perhaps then we too need to visit The Repair Shop. If we do we may find ourselves reassured that everything really can be fixed, that everything really can be put right. Furthermore, having spent a little time there, someone, somewhere might just experience the joy of having us back, a little less broken than we were before.


To read ‘Rest Assured’, click here

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