Yes, What We Do Does Matter

by WOHe

It was a cool and sunny Monday morning when I sat down to write
my editorial page, for once, ahead of schedule. Excellence and
leadership were the topics I planned to address; still wired from
what I’d seen with K&BDN’s 2001 Industry Leadership Award
winners, I was eager to talk about the value of leadership in the
kitchen and bath industry.

Unfortunately, I’d only scribbled a few notes when the phone
rang, and from there, things got steadily busier, with a host of
projects vying for my attention. The editorial fell by the wayside;
by six, I conceded defeat, deciding it would keep ’til
tomorrow.

Twenty-four hours later, though, the whole world had changed.
Tomorrow had never come for some 7,000 people, and for the rest of
us, the world had changed irrevocably. Shock and disbelief quickly
turned to grief as a nation spiraled into depression.

At K&BDN, we showed up at the office, but not much got done.
Trying to sort through both personal losses and a sudden and
terrifying national awareness of our own vulnerability, we fought
fear, anger, grief and a growing sense of meaninglessness. When
your world can be blown to bits in a matter of seconds, how much
can the mundane realities of everyday life really matter?

But while the world had changed irrevocably, the rent being due
had not. So, today, a week after terrorists waged war on my city,
and the nation, I find myself sitting at my desk again, surrounded
by piles of papers and tasks that seemed oh-so-important a week
ago, staring at a blank editorial page, and trying to figure out
what I can possibly say here that matters.

In the wake of the tragedy, talking about design, about
businesswell, it all seems somehow less important than it did a
week ago.

I look at my scribbled notes from before, and one sentence jumps
out at me: “We are defined by our leaders.”

It seems particularly apropos right now.

Leadership has become a potent topic of conversation lately.
From fire fighters, police and EMS personnel leading rescue
missions to political and religious leaders striving to protect,
defend and heal our nation, to Hollywood and sports stars who’ve
organized benefits to raise money for survivors’ funds, our
country’s leaders have been strong and sure in stepping up to the
plate to, well, lead.

It’s all very high-profile, now, of course, yet these folks have
been leading the way in their respective fields long before a
terrorist attack threw their work into the spotlight. After all,
leadership isn’t just about what happens in crisis time; it’s what
happens all the time. It’s what guides us in our day-to day
functions, what inspires us to strive, and grow, and what prepares
us so that, in times of crisis, we can survive, and even
thrive.’

As with any industry, we in the kitchen and bath industry also
look to our leaders to lead us, to teach us, to set examples of
excellence as we live and work and grow. I believe that matters,
and yet, I know many of us are suddenly struggling to understand
how and why it matters.’

It matters because we contribute to our nation’s economic
health, providing employment to many workers, and supporting a host
of allied industries. It matters because we contribute to our
communities, with the work we do and the care we put into that
work. And, I think we contribute something even more important.

Everyone copes with tragedy differently. Here, some of us are
spending more time with family; some of us are collecting money for
survivors’ funds, lighting candles, saying prayers. Some of us are
changing our habits to try to live more safely, or, conversely,
living more recklessly: Eat the cookies for breakfast, who knows
what tomorrow will bring?

But the one thing all of us seem to be doing is gravitating to
our homes. When all else goes wrong, home remains a safe haven, a
place of familiar comforts, where we can let our guard down, feel,
livejust be.’

In our industry, we often talk about the kitchen as the “heart
of the home,” or the bathroom as a “safe haven.” But I wonder if we
ever realize how truly important this is.’
Sitting in my kitchen the day after the crash, too shaken to stray
far from home, I realized how precious it was to have a familiar
place to let go, where good memories warm me, where the world can’t
reach in, where I can feel safe.’

Not all of us can perform daring rescues into blazing fires. But
people need comfort, too. They need a place where they can escape
to when the world seems insane, a place that is uniquely and
personally theirs. And we, as designers, provide that.

Beauty may be only skin deep, but sometimes its impact resonates
far beyond the surface. And that, I know in my heart, matters.

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