https://twitter.com/JoeOvelman In the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice program, there was a young, likeable guy enrolled in my basic construction class. We’ll call him Tom. Tom was tasked to sort through disassembled loading-dock pallets for sections of reusable wood and then cut the good pieces to specific sizes. I showed him what I meant by good pieces, and walked him through the measuring and table saw operations. I watched him sort and cut a few of the pallet boards, then, I
walked away. About ten minutes went by, and Tom approached me carrying a piece of pallet board. He held it out to me and asked, “Hey, Joe, what about this piece, can this piece be used?” I looked at the piece of board, and asked in return, “What do you think?” He said, No. “Why,” I asked. Tom said, “Well it’s got some mildew here and the wood is soft over here.” “Throw that one in the trash pile,” I instructed. He walked back to the table saw and pile of pallet boards and laid the mildewed board in the trash pile. But after another ten minutes, he returned, holding out a second pallet board.
“Hey Joe,” Tom said, “What do you think about this one? It’s not soft and it looks clean, but there’s this split running down it and a pretty funky knot here.” He pointed at the large, cracked, black-ringed hole. I looked at the board and then at Tom. “Is it going tohold any screws with that crack in there,” I asked. Tom shook his head. “And is it even long enough with that big hole right there,” I pointed at the cracked hole. Tom shook his head again. “Trash, right, Joe,” he asked. I nodded, and returned to what I was doing.
Five more minutes passed, and I hear Tom. “Joe, what about this one?” I turned to see a pallet board in Tom’s hand, again. I looked at the board and then at Tom. “Let’s go see what you’ve done,” I said. At the table saw there were 10 or 12 good pallet boards cut to the required length, and a small pile of trashed pallet boards. I went to the pile of the cut boards, and picked through. I said to Tom, “These are all good, right.” “Yes,” he said, “Just look at them, they’re all good.” I nodded in agreement. “And, these are the trash ones, right,” I asked as I pointed to the small pile of trashed pallet boards. “Yes,” he said, “the couple we pulled when you was showing me what to look for, and those two I showed you.” I reached for the board still in his hand, and he released it. “I think that’s a trash one there,” he said. I nodded, while taking the board and walking it to the trash pile. “You’re right,” I told him. “You know Tom, looking at the work you’ve done here, I can tell that you know the difference between the good and the bad ones. Don’t you agree?” Tom agreed. “And what does that mean,” I asked. He shrugged, waited for me to answer. “It means you can trust your own judgement,” I said. Tom smiled. “It means you don’t have to come ask me anymore about boards, you can Just Trust Yourself.” He smiled even bigger and his eyes lit. “Aight, Joe,” he put his hand on my shoulder, “I got this.” He went back to work, and didn’t ask again about any pallet boards.