Hard hat country

 on October 30, 2022

The excavation site is huge. Someday, a towering structure will emerge to we fervently hope grace the city. At the moment, this area does not grace anything. It is still what you might kindly call a work in progress. 
For the last couple of months, the great machines have torn at the earth and dumped it into huge trucks that have ground their way along the streets to destinations unknown. In the last week or so, concrete and steel have begun to line the great pit. Sparks flash here and there as welders work. Slowly, the huge spine of the construction crane has risen, and it now stands like a great gaunt bird, swinging its head to and fro, distributing giant titbits to waiting groups of workers. As evening approaches, floodlights illuminate the cold, glittering chaos that lies behind the mudstained scaffolding and the grey metal fence. 
And yet, the scene can produce unexpected and even moving contrasts. In the face of all that I have described, I see, one day, an utterly different scene. For some reason one of the men in his hard hat has been called to the gate by what I assume is his family. His wife is telling him something. There are two small children. He has one in his arms and the child is tugging at his dad’s bright yellow hard hat. The man is smiling at his wife, so I assume that whatever the reason for the visit, it is a good one. 
It strikes me that I am looking through a door open for a moment into a world we so often understand, or think we understand, as hard and tough and unfeeling; a world of power and technology, of things such as unionmanagement struggle. Sometimes a construction site can seem synonymous with soullessness and simmering hostility. We even use the term “hard hat” to label the world of such things. 
Yet amid great looming machines, crumbling earth and grinding gears, the tiny hands of a child reach for a bright yellow hard hat and find a parent’s love. As the city pours by around them, a family forms, for a fleeting few moments, an island of humanity in a world of machines, of permanence in a world of change, of love amid the demands of duty. 

  • Herbert O’Driscoll

    Herb O’Driscoll is a retired priest, conference leader and prolific author of books, hymns and radio scripts. His newest book of memoirs, I Will Arise and Go Now: Reflections on the Meaning of Places and People, was released in 2021 by Morehouse Publishing. 

    View all posts [email protected]
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