“Perfection from the Heart”

He was a giant. He stood there behind these beautiful wooden pieces, towering over the people he spoke to, and described his craft with such animated passion that you couldn’t not watch him. He had been a Police State Trooper for thirty years and, upon his retirement, took up specialty wood crafting. All around him were bowls of wood that he had delicately hand lathed until they were practically see-through. On the table lay hand-made Christmas ornaments of wood that were varnished to look like glass. I saw a small rack of pens that he had made which were one of a kind, no two alike. To buy one was as though you were buying a wand from Olivander’s (in the Harry Potter books). “Each pen choosing its master.”

He would speak to those truly interested and then he would sit down and watch the world go by. He sat there like a block of granite until the next person asked how the items had been made. Then, with a smile, his huge frame would come alive again and speak to the process. He told stories of how the wood was chosen, how the tree forms the wood, and how the wood was held to the lathe. I was struck by the irony of how this giant of a man could produce such delicate and intricate things.

When the first copies of my book arrived in my driveway, I was so excited that I could barely contain myself. As I read through the book the next day, anxious to read it for the first time from its ‘book’ form, I noticed a few typos. I was truly distraught. I considered, in all seriousness, donating the entire inventory to school kids. I looked at my son sitting across the kitchen table and asked, “What do you think of all this?” My fourteen year old son, whose faith in the goodness of people has always been my inspiration, had one thing to say. He didn’t say it rudely but it was certainly direct.

“I think you should stop feeling sorry for yourself and be proud that you wrote a great story, turned it into a book, and have something real to give to people. I think you should go and sell the book and leave the perfection to God.”

I’ve shared that story before and have thought about that comment a lot these past four weeks since the book arrived. As I sat there watching Jim “the Giant” Leatherwood speak to the uniqueness of each wooden piece, he taught me a lesson that I needed to hear one more time. Jim taught me that the love that goes into the work far outweighs the finished product and that if it comes from your soul, it is perfect in a way you will never see with the eyes. You see, that was the beauty of his work.

This story of ‘A Faithful Elf’ came from a special place. I self-published the book and crafted the entire thing from end to end. What the book represents is a Christmas story that came from my heart and was brought to life in the form of paper. Everyone who has read it has told me how much they enjoyed it and how valuable the lesson is. I treasure every comment from people who have been touched by the message in the book.

My daughter said, “Dad, when your book becomes famous, there will be three thousand people with real copies that have the few typos in it. Those people will be holding the original, the one that came directly from you.” She’s right, not about the famous part, but about the uniqueness of something that I crafted by hand. It’s funny. I actually wear a Navajo watch that was hand-made. It is one of a kind. I bought it for that very reason. Sometimes, things are too close to be seen.

I, of course, now have a pen from Jim. What self-respecting author would be without their own unique instrument of creativity? Pink ivory wood that is limited in quantity and hand selected by the chief of the tribe in Africa, hand crafted by Leatherwood himself…no kidding, it’s beautiful. He didn’t sell it to me. He didn’t have to sell anything. I only needed to hear his story and I purchased it.

As I walked around LaSalette Shrine on that last night of the Crafts Fair, I remembered the lessons of Jim Leatherwood and my children. I walked alone amongst the lights and climbed the holy steps to say a private prayer of thanks. This three day experience had been one of continual surprises and gifts. As I passed the Nativity display, I couldn’t help but smile. There in the manger was a baby reminding me that some of the best messages come wrapped in plain clothes, not a shiny three piece suit. And it took two carpenters, one from the past and one from the present, to hammer that message home.

A Faithful Elf Book Cover