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That time I got mad at my furnace

Two weeks ago, I called the furnace guy to come and perform annual maintenance on the furnace. “The furnace is working great” I told him. “It just needs a little TLC to make sure we have no problems over the winter. Maybe bring along a new filter.”

We set a date and time for service. October 9th.

October 3rd the furnace stopped working. It is a relatively new furnace, so I knew it was not worn out. But it is one of these new “high efficiency” (meaning complicated) units, so I also knew it was not going to be as easy as powering it off and on, or re-lighting the pilot. Ahh, that would be too simple!

So, I got out the furnace manual. Error Code 57. Critical fault! Could be one of eleven different things! Crap!!

I called the furnace guy, but he was not on call and was out of town for the weekend.

So, I went to the basement and got out a couple of electric heaters to stay warm for the weekend. That kind of worked, but I did not want to leave them running while we were sleeping or out of the house to avoid the risk of burning the place down. So, we bundled up and toughed it out.

After a while my anger at the furnace subsided.

We lit a nice fire in the fireplace that warmed us and created a cozy ambiance. Life was pretty good after all.

I realized I got mad because things should just work dammit. Why do I have to put up with this stuff? The furnace should just do its job, right?

But as I listened to the furnace cycling through its start-up process repeatedly and not lighting, I started to feel empathy. It was really trying, but it just could not get there, no matter how hard it tried.

It struck me: this is just like what people sometimes go through. There are times that no matter how hard we try as individuals, we can get stuck in a cycle of behaviour that just does not quite deliver the outcomes we or our families or our teammates or our businesses require.
My furnace was crying out for help. If it could have called the expert furnace technician itself to come and help, it would have. Furnaces, after all, are not people. They cannot call upon other furnaces in their neighbourhood to help.

That is the great thing about people, communities and organizations. We can recognize as individuals that we sometimes need help. And we can draw on experts, friends, family, colleagues and communities for guidance and support. We can recognize things we cannot do, whatever it is, alone. We can ask for guidance, direction, and expertise. And we can understand that it’s not only ok to ask for help. It’s how we all learn and grow.

We can’t expect things to just work dammit! Sometimes we need to call in an expert.
I called the service technician on behalf of my furnace who could not make that call, but I am looking forward to my next furnace that will detect when it needs help and calls the service tech itself.

Stay healthy and stay warm.

Doug Dougherty

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