The Damage Control Guy

Sidewalks of Lisbon are one of a kind. They’re all made of small white rocks, gently pounded into the ground and making for a more or less uneven surface. In between these irregular rocks, there’s something white as well, I suspect it’s limestone dust, or something like that. The problem with that white space between hard surfaces is that regular dust accumulates there as well. The white interstitial vines are turning grey, or black, quite fast, and, very soon, grass starts growing there.

As a result, you can see people cutting grass more often than elsewhere. And when I say “people”, it’s more than one at a time.

Here’s how it works.

There is always a team made of two persons. The cutter is using an electric grass trimmer, the kind that spins very fast a wire, so fast that it becomes like a blade. But always, near the cutter, there’s the second person, the one that I call “the damage control guy”. I don’t know if that’s the official name, but thats how I call them. These guys are doing – apparently – nothing but holding a big panel of cardboard around the cutter. This panel, sometimes 2 by 2 meters, is preventing cut grass to spread around, pushed by the force of the cutter, and creating even more potential for future grass. So the damage control guy doesn’t actively cut grass, he merely contains the situation.

It looks like he does nothing, but his work is equally important, if not more important than the work of the actual cutter.

Containing The Ripples

And the other day it just dawned upon me how few of these damage control guys we have in our lives. How easy are we embarking in courageously getting rid of the ballast, without making sure we’re not creating the premises for even more ballast in the future.

Every cleaning activity in our lives should be supervised by a damage control guy. There should be someone, always, aware of the impact our actions have in the future.

For instance, we may cut bridges with toxic people in our lives, but we do this carelessly, leaving debris all over the place, just like we would cut grass without containing it. In time, those debris are finding roots again and they resurface in our lives, guess what, on an even wider surface. And we get to deal with even more toxic persons.

Or we may start working hard for reaching a certain goal. But in the process we spread too thin, we don’t get enough rest, we do ten things at once, without any damage control guy around. We may get a lot done, just like the blade is cutting indeed the grass, but our very spreading creates premises for unmanageable situations. We put too much on our plate and our progress (if any) is made with a too big of a cost.

The damage control guy may be just that tiny voice in your head, slowly asking every time you prepare for a deep dive: “Are you sure you won’t make a way bigger splash than needed? Are you sure you can contain the ripples of your doings in the future?”

I admit he is a boring piece, this damage control guy, but better be bored for a few seconds, and think things through, than deploy energy, time and resources, only to create an even bigger mess than you wanted to solve.

Photo by Angèle Kamp on Unsplash

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