Posted by on Mar 30, 2014 | 0 comments

Three men were building sections of a large brick wall. The sections were the same length but ranged dramatically in height. A stranger stood watching the work observing the differences in technique and approach. The chap working the tallest section moved quickly up his ladder carrying several bricks in a holder with the mortar in a pail attached underneath. The bricks themselves were lying in a large untidy heap close to the base of the wall. As the observer looked more closely it became clear that the bricks in the wall didn’t line up perfectly horizontally as the mortar was thicker in some places than others, and indeed several bricks had broken facework, so that the wall didn’t seem very uniform. The stranger asked the builder ‘what are you doing exactly?’ The insolent reply came back: ‘I’m laying bricks as fast as I can so I can finish this job and pick up my paycheck. What’s it look like to you?’

The middle section was about two thirds the height of the first section, but there were several obvious pleasing differences. The lines of bricks were clearly horizontal as evidenced by the strings stretched tightly from one end of the wall to the other. And clearly the workman had sorted the bricks as he had two piles, one of apparently good bricks, the other, much smaller, of discards – some cracked, some with corners broken away. The wall looked fine although on closer inspection every second row didn’t always line up with its counterpart as the mortar between end to end bricks varied in thickness. The wall was appealing but a little imperfect. To the same question as before this bricklayer responded ‘Obviously I’m building a brick wall. It’s what I do for a living. I’m pretty good at it. OK?’

Even from a distance the third section seemed to stand out in its workmanship. It was only half the height of the first wall and strong stanchions helped keep it straight and precise. The bricks all lined up and furthermore there was a consistent gradation in colour, for this builder had sorted the bricks into several piles. Not just on wholesomeness – there certainly was a pile of discards – but on colour variation as well. His actions were slower and more deliberate, clearly evidencing a care and sense of craftsmanship missing from the other sections. Thoroughly impressed, the stranger asked the builder his question ‘what are you doing exactly?’ But added ‘Your work is meticulous’.

The builder paused and walked back to the observer ,checking the wall as he came. ‘Well, it’s like this’, he said. ‘I’m just like the other two men. I’m a bricklayer and I’m building a wall. But for me this is something special.’

‘I’m building a cathedral.’


The lesson: you can do a job, you can do a job with aplomb and finesse, or you can do a job for a higher purpose beyond the work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Facebook IconTwitter IconRSS Blog Feed