I got to talking with friends this morning over breakfast (he’s a model railroader and his wife is very supportive and “crafty” in her own right) and the subject of benchwork (the wood used to support the railroad) came up. S was talking about a helix he was designing, reinforced with angle iron and solid joint supports so the thing would hold the weight of a model train and itself through several complete circles stacked on top of each other. This is a continuous spiral of track designed to gain 16 inches of elevation, allowing two levels of model railroading in a given space. The thing has to be solid, not subject to warping from humidity, and designed not too steep to prevent a model train from climbing it and not too shallow that it doesn’t provide enough clearance between tiers for trains to pass.
A mutual railroading friend observed that maybe S was over-designing the helix; angle iron, really? This other friend built his foundation for a new rail yard on 1×2 lumber with 2 inch foam on top and S noted that it was already sagging between the supports. A third friend decided to use furniture grade ¾ inch plywood for his foundation and even cut 1×4 “lumber” from the plywood to use as a structure supporting the plywood roadbed. It was a big investment in time and money. When completed, he wryly observed that he wasn’t sure it was solid enough and then proceeded to jump on top of the whole assembly, all ??? pounds of himself, producing nary a wobble or sag in the process. Hmm, seems pretty solid to me.
A solid foundation is essential to a successful and trouble free model railroad. It can stand the weight of the plaster and scenery, and it’s stable so the rails stay put and trains don’t jump the tracks whether the owner is working in solitude or the layout is surrounded by visitors. It’s also essential to living a fulfilling life in the sandwich. I don’t know about you but I sure prefer to have a solid foundation to help me carry what seems to be the weight of the world, and to keep me on track when life seems determined to derail me.
How solid is your personal foundation? Have you built your life on rock, or on sand? What values drive your life? Are you on a mission and focused? Are you self-aware and mindful of how you affect others by what you do and how you act? Do you take responsibility and initiative, and accept accountability for your actions? Do you manage your time wisely? Are you a continuous learner? Do you manage your emotions effectively? Do you make sound decisions? Do you communicate effectively? Do you build productive and healthy personal and work relationships with others? Does your behavior in public or in private always reflect your foundation?
Building a solid foundation is a lifelong endeavor. You’re not born with it. You don’t inherit it. And you sure don’t buy it. You start building it in the sandbox, continue building it through your school years, and reinforce and strengthen it during your entire adult life. If you are not just smart but wise about it, you build your foundation right up until the moment of your death.
What does a solid foundation do for you? It gives you a family and friends who care, and a life worth living. It guides you through difficult decisions and transitions. It shines a beacon that you and others can follow in darkness. It sounds a horn that guides you through the fog and confusion of daily living. It offers a compass when the way is uncertain. It builds your integrity in the eyes of others.
Why is a solid foundation so important to living in the sandwich? It keeps you focused on the important things, and keeps you on track when distractions and temptations try to derail you. There are so many distractions when you are helping parents and children with your own limited resources and finances that it’s easy to get disheartened and frustrated, to sink into uncertainty and doubt, and to lose your sense of purpose.
If you’re feeling a little lost right now, revisit those questions a couple of paragraphs back. Ask yourself what you’re doing today to strengthen your own foundation and to take care of yourself. For me a little Jazz at the Zoo, a shared prayer with my wife at bedtime, a conversation with good friends, and writing in the midst of an exuberant lunch bunch at my favorite fast food hangout have made these last few hours a real foundation builder.
Mixing a little mortar and laying a few more stones in the foundation…