Other People’s Obstacles

by Patrick McNerthney

There are several things that need fixing around the house right now. I would like to highlight the two that seem simple, yet have the most potential for serious destruction:

Thing Number One

Replacing the flagpole bracket/holder thingy on the front porch. We’ve been flagless for 16 years, so this bracket has never been utilized, not once, but suddenly my wife wants a flag there, representing what or who I do not know. 

So I bought a flagpole. (When was the last time you bought a flag pole?). But it’s too big for the existing bracket. 

So I bought a new bracket. But when I tried to remove the old bracket, the screws stripped out because they’re ancient and rusted.

Now I’ll have to pry this bracket off with a pry-bar and hope a big chunk of the 4 x 4-inch, white-painted, porch post it’s mounted on doesn’t come off with it. I better have some white paint handy too, just in case. Of course, this all faces the front of our house, right next to the front door, a.k.a. it’s highly visible, and thus requires extra care, so as not to damage anything…

No problemo. 

(Ohhhh I wish this was my house that needed a flagpole!)

Thing Number Two

(Drum roll…)Repairing the side gate, which is an extension of a cedar fence on the east side of the house. My buddy built the fence two years ago because he’s good at that kind of thing, and he even included a handy gate so we could transverse from backyard to front yard on a whim. How pleasant!

Yet for some reason he made this gate weigh 900 pounds. 

It’s reinforced with enough lumber to withstand the impact of a decent-sized charging rhinoceros. Thus over time it began to sag, and drag on the cement walkway beneath it. Sure, this is only when opening and closing, but it’s still awful to hear, and arguably second in audial terribleness only to nails on a chalkboard!

To fix this, my construction-skilled brother-in-law (whom you may have heard me mention before) installed a huge bolt with a nut in the gate post that, when tightened, lifts the whole thing up off the ground, just enough to allow the gate to swing freely.  Unfortunately, the whole setup is buried so deep in the post that one needs a special, extra-long socket to tighten said bolt – at least I think that’s what I need – which I will now have to search high and low for– to stop this infernal gate dragging noise problem. 


Now, I don’t know what it is about home improvement projects that I dislike, but I thoroughly dislike them. They usually go poorly, take up huge quantities of my time, and believe it or not I consistently tend to do things incorrectly. I don’t have the tools, the knowhow or even a natural instinct as to how mechanical stuff or even paintbrushes for that matter, work, and I am not motivated in the slightest to make any effort to change this. Hmph! Ultimately when faced with these challenges I become short-tempered and all around grumpy, in part because of the aforementioned dislike, and in part because I’m embarrassed by my keen inability.

                        (Not me, but that’s my take on home improvement.) 

Other folks (we’ll call them space aliens) obviously love things like installing flagpole brackets and ratcheting up two ton gates so they swing freely. Maybe it’s the challenge,perhaps the enormous joy of using a tool correctly, seeing the direct result of hard work, or they just “get” how all this stuff works so to them, it comes easily. But my friends, we couldn’t be farther apart in our world views. 

It’s important to recognize that an obstacle for us may be a joy for someone else. Or vice versa! But the key here is, when we do take the time to reserve judgement and instead look for the obstacle; when we see someone who’s frustrated, angry, bitter, or otherwise struggling (which sometimes comes across as “not being a team player”), some serious magic happens.

  • We don’t get frustrated or angry in return. In fact, simply by adopting a posture of patient curiosity, we remove ourselves from the equation entirely and instead, gain insight as to how we can help them and make things better. 
  • As for the recipient of this gift, the one burdened by the challenge at hand, well, imagine how you would feel if during your most tense, stressed moment, a peer came up, put a hand on your shoulder and said, “How can I help?” rather than judging you or writing you off. 

If you did this for me during my aforementioned struggles, I guarantee my face would light up due to a sudden optimism paired with a belief that the obstacle at hand will be overcome. Not to mention it’s simply fantastic to know someone cares! 

Fine Art Miracles (FAM) understands some of the biggest obstacles for the elderly, children with challenges, those whose bodies and minds simply work differently, are coping with feelings of isolation and being left behind. That’s why FAM champions creative expression as a great way to help overcome these barriers to happiness. Art Therapy, Dance & Movement Therapy and ART2GO packages allow underserved populations to simply create, which turns out to be a great way to demonstrate their voice and relevance to the world.  

It’s also pretty cool that showing off some mastery and individuality through creative expression happens to increase self-confidence and self-worth, while combating anxiety and depression. Not a bad deal at all! 

If you have any questions about using art to help your residents and loved ones overcome their obstacles, feel free to send a note or give Fine Art Miracles a call. They’re more than thrilled to help out!

Update: Three attempts over two days with one trip to the hardware store and my flag is flying proudly. The gate is swinging freely too! Turns out all I had to do for that one was twist the bolt with a pair of pliers. Hmmmm, maybe this home improvement stuff ain’t so bad after all…

Nah, I don’t like it, it’s fine. I’ll just try not to take it so seriously next time.


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