Yes, What We Do Does Matter

It was a cool and sunny Monday morning when I sat down to write my editorial page, for once, ahead of schedule. Excellence and leadership were the topics I planned to address; still wired from what I'd seen with K&BDN's 2001 Industry Leadership Award winners, I was eager to talk about the value of leadership in the kitchen and bath industry.

Unfortunately, I'd only scribbled a few notes when the phone rang, and from there, things got steadily busier, with a host of projects vying for my attention. The editorial fell by the wayside; by six, I conceded defeat, deciding it would keep 'til tomorrow.

Twenty-four hours later, though, the whole world had changed. Tomorrow had never come for some 7,000 people, and for the rest of us, the world had changed irrevocably. Shock and disbelief quickly turned to grief as a nation spiraled into depression.

At K&BDN, we showed up at the office, but not much got done. Trying to sort through both personal losses and a sudden and terrifying national awareness of our own vulnerability, we fought fear, anger, grief and a growing sense of meaninglessness. When your world can be blown to bits in a matter of seconds, how much can the mundane realities of everyday life really matter?

But while the world had changed irrevocably, the rent being due had not. So, today, a week after terrorists waged war on my city, and the nation, I find myself sitting at my desk again, surrounded by piles of papers and tasks that seemed oh-so-important a week ago, staring at a blank editorial page, and trying to figure out what I can possibly say here that matters.

In the wake of the tragedy, talking about design, about businesswell, it all seems somehow less important than it did a week ago.

I look at my scribbled notes from before, and one sentence jumps out at me: "We are defined by our leaders."

It seems particularly apropos right now.

Leadership has become a potent topic of conversation lately. From fire fighters, police and EMS personnel leading rescue missions to political and religious leaders striving to protect, defend and heal our nation, to Hollywood and sports stars who've organized benefits to raise money for survivors' funds, our country's leaders have been strong and sure in stepping up to the plate to, well, lead.

It's all very high-profile, now, of course, yet these folks have been leading the way in their respective fields long before a terrorist attack threw their work into the spotlight. After all, leadership isn't just about what happens in crisis time; it's what happens all the time. It's what guides us in our day-to day functions, what inspires us to strive, and grow, and what prepares us so that, in times of crisis, we can survive, and even thrive.'

As with any industry, we in the kitchen and bath industry also look to our leaders to lead us, to teach us, to set examples of excellence as we live and work and grow. I believe that matters, and yet, I know many of us are suddenly struggling to understand how and why it matters.'

It matters because we contribute to our nation's economic health, providing employment to many workers, and supporting a host of allied industries. It matters because we contribute to our communities, with the work we do and the care we put into that work. And, I think we contribute something even more important.

Everyone copes with tragedy differently. Here, some of us are spending more time with family; some of us are collecting money for survivors' funds, lighting candles, saying prayers. Some of us are changing our habits to try to live more safely, or, conversely, living more recklessly: Eat the cookies for breakfast, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

But the one thing all of us seem to be doing is gravitating to our homes. When all else goes wrong, home remains a safe haven, a place of familiar comforts, where we can let our guard down, feel, livejust be.'

In our industry, we often talk about the kitchen as the "heart of the home," or the bathroom as a "safe haven." But I wonder if we ever realize how truly important this is.'
Sitting in my kitchen the day after the crash, too shaken to stray far from home, I realized how precious it was to have a familiar place to let go, where good memories warm me, where the world can't reach in, where I can feel safe.'

Not all of us can perform daring rescues into blazing fires. But people need comfort, too. They need a place where they can escape to when the world seems insane, a place that is uniquely and personally theirs. And we, as designers, provide that.

Beauty may be only skin deep, but sometimes its impact resonates far beyond the surface. And that, I know in my heart, matters.