Friday, June 18, 2010

Knowledge is Power

About 10 years ago we went took the kids to visit my grandma in California. On the way home the car stopped working, thankfully not too far from a friend of ours who was a mechanic. We made it to his house, his wife fed us, and the family put us up for the night. The next morning Chris had the car apart, the new part in place, and we were on our way shortly after lunch. I remember telling him what a mystery a car, and pretty much all mechanical devices, are to me. I could give you a run down (at least then) on the components of the nervous system in your body but had absolutely no idea what happened to that wire under the hood of the car once it disappeared from view. He said something about not having a clue about the human body once you got deeper than the skin and we both agreed it was a good thing that there are different people with different knowledge bases in the world.

Over the years we've had lots of opportunities to learn new things. I can now patch and paint a hole in the wall, remove wall paper, paint, repair broken doors, install a new counter-top and new light fixtures, install a new disposal, and do very minor plumbing repairs to name a few. I have pretty much avoided machines, though, and they remain a large mystery to me. So, with that, let me just say:

I replaced the heating element in my dryer today.

Actually, it took me two days- yesterday I took the dryer apart and figured out which part was broken. (Thanks to my neighbor for muscle to pull a part out and for having an ohm meter to test it with.) Today I bought the element, put it in (with my own muscle), tested it, and had no left over parts.

That may not sound very impressive. In fact, to summarize the process in just a few sentences somehow trivializes my last two days. Let me say it again, I replaced the heating element in my dryer. I even have a bloody knuckle to prove it. I realize a service call could have had the whole thing taken care of in a matter of hours, but, doggonit (is that really a word?), I have a brain and shouldn't I be able to figure this out- and while Greg was gone at youth conference to boot? The best part of the whole thing is not even the functioning dryer. The best part is the amazing feeling of accomplishment that comes from figuring out something new- and made even better by having it actually work. One hour or two days- it feels good to say I fixed it because I'd never done it before and, to be honest, it always seemed a bit intimidating to me.

It's a very empowering feeling to break outside of your boundaries, and try something new. The occasional success is icing. It's the trying that provides the long term education. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power." Watching something is not the same as trying it first hand. Watching is interesting. Trying something first hand opens the doors to new possibilities and the confidence to explore them.

I realize that we're just talking dryers here- and only one quarter of the schematic diagram that came with the installation instructions for this particular dryer. But, today the dryer is more than a white box that spits out heat and requires a specialist to keep alive. I can open the panel door, look inside, and know what's where in that corner. Next step are the other three schematics. Who knows, maybe I'll even tackle the washing machine someday. The car is still pretty much a mystery to me and the bolt that fell off the other day makes me nervous since I can't see where it fell from. But, we'll take one machine- and one break down- at a time. If I can learn how a muscle works and the anatomy of a human body, man-made machines can't be that hard. It's just a matter of doing it- and having the right equipment. Looks like "ohm meter" will be making it's debut on my wish list.


kyleandbeth said...

So no extra parts? And it doesn't make noises while it runs? You are better than dad! I won't tell him since Father's Day is tomorrow!!!

Julie said...

I am truly truly impressed! Way to go, Shannon!!!

Deborah Finch said...

Impressive we are.......

Linda said...

I'm very proud of you, Shannon. You're an example and an inspiration and maybe a future helper when my dryer element needs replacing. =)

Mom O' Nine said...

I think you are truly wonderful. Mr Wonderful would be SO impressed, too. He used to try to get me to learn this stuff...but I am quite certain it was so I could do it, and he could sit in a chair and watch more TV, so I am still dumb.