I’ve never been much of a handyman, but I do what I can.
Back in the day, when cars had carburetors but no computers – and also needed a tune-up every 15,000 miles or so – I could change the points and plugs, set the timing, and do other minor automotive repairs.
Today, it can be hard even to find the spark plugs, so I leave it to the experts.
Last week, our dishwasher starting leaking water through the door. My first thought was, “It’s at least 15 years old, could be time for a new one.”
My second thought was, “I should at least try to fix it.”
I removed the kick panel and determined that none of the hoses were leaking, but I couldn’t figure why water would be coming through the door.
So, I did what people do these days: I Googled “water leaking from dishwasher door” and found lots of repair tips, most pointing to a worn door seal. I ordered the rubber gasket and replaced it, but the leak remained.
I decided to give Mr. Google one more try, and I found a YouTube video of a man replacing a smaller gasket that had blown out of his impeller because some screws had come loose.
I removed the spray arm to get to the impeller housing and there was no sign of a blown gasket, but two screws on the front side were indeed loose, apparently allowing water to shoot out of the pump and straight into the lower door vents.
Fortunately, I had a star-shaped bit needed to tighten the screws. Voila – no leaks!
I felt about as proud as the day another YouTube repair guy helped me to disassemble the carburetor to my power washer, clean the jets, and get it running again.
A lot of things can be fixed with a little ingenuity.
For example, I have several cotton masks – from a wedding, from Campbell University, from a political campaign. They are nice enough, but I can’t crimp them over my nose, so my glasses persistently fog up.
It occurred to me that I could cut a tiny slit in the hem at the top, insert a sturdy twist-tie, and then happily pinch the mask over my nose. No fog!
I thought about uploading the hack to YouTube, but I’m sure a bunch of other folks have beaten me to it.
Being able to fix things brings a lot of satisfaction and knowing when to call an expert can be rewarding, too – it helps keep the economy going.
But our main worries these days are about things much bigger than a dishwasher.
How can we fix the systemic racism and economic classism and partisan polarization that plagues our country – especially when so many people deny that the problems exist, and others actively exacerbate the divides?
How can we understand – much less fix – a crazy movement filled with people who drink the Kool-Aid of one baseless conspiracy after another?
How can a political party with a noble history sell its soul to a charlatan who goes over the edge and then live in such fear that it’s afraid to rebuke him?
There’s nothing on YouTube to fix that, and enough conspiracy bunk to make it worse.
I learned a long time ago that you can’t fix people. Doctors and surgeons can do much to repair human bodies, and mental health professionals can often do much to improve troubled minds, but you can’t fix someone who doesn’t recognize that something is wrong.
I’d like to say we should just pray about it and turn it over to God, but it’s not that simple. The Bible clearly insists that God is not in the business of changing people against their will but lets us decide for ourselves what kind of persons we want to be.
So that means if we want to see change, we have to be the people who do the best we can to make good decisions and love other people and fix what is within our reach.
And we can hope that if we invest enough careful wisdom and persistent love into our corners of the world, maybe we’ll begin to see a difference.
In any case, like the Dutch boy who stood through the night with his finger in a leaky dike, we’ll know we have done what we could.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.