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  Chapter 13 from
Buy Green Bananas
Observation on self, family, life

By Rabbi Berel Wein 


Other Available Chapters
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Wear A Hard Hat

All of us are familiar with the sign seen at construction sites around the world stating that entry to the site is strictly forbidden unless one is wearing a hard hat. Because of the ubiquitous nature of this sign, construction workers generally and those working on steel superstructures particularly have become known as “hard-hats.” But the truth is that all human beings have to wear a hard hat in every phase of their life’s endeavors. All of us are constantly being harassed and annoyed by nitpicking critics who cast stones -- or nuts and bolts -- at our projects, dreams, aspirations and goals. To survive this inevitable onslaught, one needs to wear a hard hat. A hard hat need not be a symbol of stubbornness. It is certainly, however, a symbol of tenacity and personal independence. It allows the depressing comments and dire predictions of others to bounce off our head instead of entering our mind and becoming a part of our personality and psyche. One will rarely be able to achieve anything of creative worth in life if one does not wear a hard hat.

In my own personal life, I recall that before almost every project or position in employment that I have ever undertaken, well-meaning “friends” discouraged me from going forward. Every possible problem and pitfall was outlined for me. Now many of those problems actually did arise when I began the project or work. But none of them justified the abandoning of the project and work position. There never is a problem-free environment or project. I remember that after a particularly difficult and problem-laden day of work, one of my associates complained about the presence and difficulty of those problems. I pointed out to him that if it were not for the presence of those problems none of us would have our jobs. We were hired specifically to deal with the ever-present problems of that field of endeavor. In order to excel at whatever one does, a person requires tenacity of purpose, creativity of ideas, optimism and a quality hard hat on his or her head.

Wearing a hard hat is particularly necessary for people who are of “minority” religious, racial or ethnic background. They are automatically subjected to having the debris of the then-prevailing majority culture dumped on their heads. The struggle to retain one’s own deeply held beliefs, traditions, value system and lifestyle -- when these are at variance with the majority culture of the surrounding environment -- is truly a monumental one. Though the “melting pot” theory of nationalism has faded in the latter third of our century, it is still a daunting task to be proudly different in any society, no matter how free and democratic it may be. A hard hat protects against the comments, looks and slurs that are unavoidable when one is perceived as being purposely different. A hard hat becomes the garment of one’s self-worth and self-confidence. It does not and cannot and should not shut out the rest of the world. But it does allow the wearer to be himself or herself and to pursue those goals in life that are most dear to him or her. I think that our world needs more hard-hatters. Being one of those hard-hatters would make life more interesting, if not even more rewarding and satisfying.

 
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