“I am just ballast.”
I made that
remark casually to someone admiring my wife’s photographs last Saturday. My wife takes pictures of kids playing sports and I was helping by manning her tent during the game. It is an easy job most days but when the wind is up, I spend most of my time holding the tent down and keeping the contents from blowing away.
I was making light of my role in my wife’s business. It is something that anybody can do: No talent required. But the truth is that ballast is essential and not everybody will fill that role. I help my wife by holding her display down in the wind and talking to people while she does the work she loves and is very good at. Who would do it for her if I don’t? Without that anchor, she loses her ability to display her work during the game. So ballast gives my wife the freedom to do her job. It’s not difficult being ballast except when you are the kind of person who has to be the center of attention. Fortunately for me I have grown beyond my need for that kind of ego gratification but it wasn’t easy growth and it didn’t happen overnight. It was hard work to learn that I do not need to be the most important player in the game all the time.
This is a role I did not understand or appreciate as a young man. I was very much into me and not very much into others. As I mature I recognize the importance of supporting roles and get satisfaction from being able to make my wife’s life easier and more productive. To be fair, she does the same for me.
I think that ballast is import in many aspects of life. I think we all know individuals at work that provide stability confidence when things go wrong. It is also one of the traditional roles of fathers in society- think of Ward Cleaver or Ozzie Nelson. It is not a trivial job and if my family remembers me for providing them stability as they faced the world – ballast – I will be very happy.