Thursday, January 14, 2010

For two reasons I asked my friend, Jack, about the ring on his pinky finger. It’s not made of material rings are usually made of and, quite honestly, Jack, in my mind, isn’t really a pinky finger ring kind of guy. Maybe it’s a mental image I’ve come up with from some book I’ve read, but to me pinky finger ring guys play croquet and have a brandy by the fire in their ascots. They probably lift their fingers as they sip. Jack would rather be blazing trails through the woods on a four wheeler than anywhere else and I’m quite sure he doesn’t own a single ascot. All that to say, you can understand my question about Jack’s pinky ring.

Here’s what he told me and as he explained, I could understand how important the ring was to him.

There’s a tradition in the Canadian engineering schools dating back to the 1800s, the Iron Ring Ceremony. Each graduate is presented with a very significant ring that carries a huge responsibility. First, the ring indicates completion of engineering school. Second, it’s to be worn on the little finger of the writing hand. As the engineer works, the clicking sound from the ring hitting the work table is a reminder of the responsibility to details. And lastly, the ring is made of iron salvaged from engineering disasters. The majority of structures, he went on to say, collapse not because of defects in the large expanses of metal, but because of a bolt or a screw … the little things.

That ring is a constant call to awareness. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we all had a pinky finger ring reminder of some kind. Not just buildings and bridges crumble because of small mistakes and lack of consideration. How much better would all of our relationships be if we were kinder, more patient, and less testy? The little things. If we pay attention to the little things then, just maybe, the big things won’t break.

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