Monthly Archives: March 2014

Please Remember to Hold the Handrail


I work in the petro-chemical industry. We are the ones that bring you the natural gas, gasoline, plastics and many other products that make modern civilization possible. When you are working with highly explosive chemicals, safety is your first and most important priority. One small mistake, oversight, cutting of corners, by-passing of procedures—and you can have a major catastrophe on your hands. The cost to life, health and the environment can be tremendous. So we spend a lot of time, effort and training to make sure our designs and practices are safe.

I work in an engineering office where the potential hazards are minimal, but we place the same level of effort on safety. In the office the big safety issues are things like, put a lid on your coffee cup so you won’t spill any and create a slip hazard, or cross the street only when the light says “walk”. Everyone’s favorite is “Please remember to hold the handrail when doing down stairs”. They hammered on the handrail issue so much that it became the office joke. Every meeting started with a safety moment about the staircase. We had balloons tide to the handrail saying “hold the handrail”. We had signs to remind us. Someone even had cardboard cutouts of the chief officers of the building with these words coming out of their mouths, “Remember to hold the handrails”. We were encouraged to stop coworkers and remind them to hold the hand rails.

If you are like me, you are saying to yourself, “This is totally absurd. These are highly educated men and women, they are adults. You are treating them like kindergarteners. They have been walking since they were a one-year-old. They don’t need to be told how to cross the street, or walk without spilling things, or how to walk on the staircase.” Well that is how I feel. And I am not about to stop someone on the staircase and say, “Ah-ah-ah, you are not holding the hand rail”. It just seems so stupid to have to tell people something that they should already know, and they have already been warned about a thousand times.

Believe it or not we had two people fall within one month’s time. One of them missed the bottom step and fell face first, spread-eagle on the office lobby floor.

This article is not just about holding the handrail. There are all kinds of areas where we know we should take precautions but we don’t because we feel stable. We have never fallen before, we go on with a false confidence that it will never happen to us. It is not all that unusual for a person on staff at a Church to become romantically involved with someone they are not married to. When the news comes out there are typically two reactions. First is, “How could this happen, they know better than that. Precautions in this area are one of the first things that they teach you when you are going into ministry.” The second response is, “I saw it! I saw all of the warning signs and I didn’t say anything. Why didn’t I warn them?”

When walking down a staircase there are simple precautions that you need to take to keep yourself from falling and hurting yourself. Often they seem unnecessary. They are things like, don’t be distracted, don’t carry things down on the stairs, they could compromise your stability (take the elevator instead), be self-aware you could be caught off balance, and hold the handrail.

When it comes to sexual integrity there are the same types of precautions. Pay attention to what you are doing, don’t be distracted. Be self-aware, pay attention to how you are feeling and respond appropriately. Don’t place yourself in compromising positions like being alone with someone of the opposite sex. Don’t believe that you can keep yourself from falling, remember to hold the handrail.

If you see someone that is not following the safety precautions, then you have an obligation to remind them of the simple safety rules. We don’t want anyone to fall and hurt themselves.

In Tribute to the Designer

When I arrive at work I drop my things off at my desk, log into my computer, pick up my coffee cup and head to the coffee maker. Free coffee, my favorite kind. The deal is you get free coffee, but when the pot is running low you have to make another pot. It really is pretty easy:

  1. Place the empty pot under the drip mechanism
  2. Remove the tray that holds the coffee grounds and filter, dump out the old coffee
  3. Replace the old filter with a new one
  4. Open a package of coffee and pour it into the filter
  5. Replace the tray
  6. Push the “brew” button

They really have made it easy. Even I have mastered making coffee with this method. It seems like I am making it every morning.

One morning as I was making coffee I couldn’t find the scissors that were normally there to cut open the coffee package. The thought occurred to me that I probably don’t need scissors. The package has a jagged edge. I’ll bet it was designed to be torn open. I looked a little closer and discovered that there is actually a little notch cut into the top of the pouch to make it easy to start the tear.

My mind went on a free-for-all considering all of the careful design work that goes into making packaging. It needs to hold the coffee and keep it fresh. It needs to be made of a material that is not affected by the coffee and doesn’t affect the coffee. It needs to be strong enough to hold the coffee during all of the packaging, shipping and handling. You can’t have a package that will accidentally break open. At the same time it must be designed to tear open easily and in the right direction. You can’t have the package tear down the middle and spill the coffee all over. It really is a very sophisticated design. I am a designer and we think about these kinds of things. I also considered the machine that puts the coffee in the package. And of course there is that one point in the process when the machine cuts an extra little slice in the package to make it easy for me to tear.

At that point I began to really appreciate all of the work that the designer put into designing a package for me; one that would make my life easier. I decided then and there that I would never again use scissors to open a coffee pouch. Nope. If the designer went to all of the trouble to design a machine to cut a small slit into the pouch to make it easy for me to tear, then every morning I will pay tribute to the designer and I will tear open the package.

God is the great designer of the universe. He has paid close attention to every detail. Often it was done for our benefit. We are designed to function in certain ways. God has designed our relationships to work in certain ways and yet we often want to do it a different way.

Whether you are opening a coffee pouch or relating to your spouse or friends, consider the effort that the Designer put in to the design. Reflect on how He intended for it to work. Then pay tribute to the designer and behave in a way that honors Him and His design.