The well remembered children’s story The Hero of Haarlem tells a tale of a nameless Dutch boy who sticks his finger in a leaking dyke and stays out all night in the cold until it was repaired.
He saves his town and has since been quoted and immortalized for his bravery. We refer to this story unwittingly at times to refer to an effort being made to hold back disaster and this little story popped into my head this week as I bought my first Christmas present.
I had been smug in my resistance to beginning Christmas as I knew that once I pulled my finger out of that hole, the flood would begin.
It’s almost like an uncontrollable urge to now get things ready for Christmas where I have been OK to continue plugging the hole for the last few weeks.
If you have ever started a renovation project, you can understand what this feels like; one minute you are safe and your home is in order and in one afternoon you can be submerged in complete chaos.
My mom decided to renovate my old bedroom after I moved away to college. The home that had an old TV and no cable in the creepy basement would soon have a TV room with a new wide screen and comfortable couches – do I sound bitter? Anyways, I’m not sure if my mom had been planning it or just found herself one afternoon with a crowbar in her hands but there she was with ceiling tiles all around her when my dad got home. He sighed and said, ‘So I’m guessing we are renovating this bedroom?’
That first strike with a sharp tool and the floodgates opened, the mess was on the floor and there was no turning back.
The untold part of the story was if that little boy had stayed longer, he would have gotten hungry and cold and might have lost his finger if he never removed it from the dyke.
I wonder how long his bravery would have held out if he wasn’t rescued after a day or so, how long can one person stand there plugging a hole?
I jest, for I know it’s a fable, but it does remind me of people who resist and look the other way with projects in their homes; just stick your finger in it and try to ignore the torrent of water building up on the other side! That first strike is the fatal blow, the scary part of renovation (or Christmas shopping), the knowing you cannot go back if you pull your finger out because things will come crashing down on you.
That day will come when you are innocently going about your day and you see that hole spring in the dyke; your choice is to plug it and hope for the best or to sound the alarm and call for help from people who can repair your home.
If you look away, the ‘leak’ will be bigger and more complicated to fix the next time you address it and the long list of Christmas ‘to do’s’ will still be there looming over you like a wall of water.
When the task is small and at its beginnings, it is much easier to tackle – a small boy can save a whole town with his tiny finger.
Kim Wyse is a Central Alberta freelance designer. Find her on facebook at ‘Kim Wyse Associate Royal Lepage Tamarack Trail Realty’.