The Little Jobs Can Bring the Biggest Rewards

Former Liverpool architect and author of Cancer 4 Me 5
I am the County architect in Tipperary, Ireland. It is a big job. Most of the projects running through my hands are multi-million dollar contracts. The design and construction of major new housing developments in all of the towns throughout the county.

But I always like to keep my hand in on a few smaller projects at all times too. They keep me grounded. They bring me out to real people, living real lives, with real housing issues. No matter how small their individual project may be on the global scale, for them, it is the biggest project in the world.

Josie Morrissey is a 52-year-old woman, living in a council house in the middle of the county, with her two adult daughters.   She has severe osteoarthritis and has been unable to walk since December 2016. In that time she has effectively been confined to sitting on her bed, apart from when her family and carers assist her down the stairs and into a wheelchair. But, with the only bathroom in the house being on the first floor, she was spending almost all of her day upstairs, completely disconnected from the main living area of the house and, more importantly, her family.


And you make a difference, one life at a time.
So I went to see Josie. At times like this one of the greatest assets I have in my portfolio is not my skills or my experience, but my eye patch. It means I am often seen differently to other unannounced callers to a house.

“The man at the door is disabled too. He is one of us”.

So while many others would still be standing awkwardly on the doorstep, rigidly holding onto their clipboards and getting ready to be interrogated, I am invariably already sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea in my hand. My eye patch had been instrumental in melting away any bureaucratic barriers that may have presented themselves between us.

Josie and I liked each other from the very start. We had common ground and common appreciation. I have been lucky enough to be have been able to draw a line under the ailment that had come to me and return to my normal life. But she will have to deal with the one that has come to her, for every day she lives.  

I sat with her and listened to her story to make a full assessment of her needs. Then I designed a new, modern extension for the house that would greatly improve her quality of life and allow her to return to the heart of her home. I made several return trips to keep her involved in the process as I finalized it. A new ground floor extension would give her a new bedroom from which she could have direct access to the back garden. Beside the bedroom is a new bathroom but rather than being just specifically for her, it is located so that it can be used by everybody in the house and is part of a house rather than part of a hospital.             

And where the old and the new part of the house connect, a new, bright Kitchen/Dining/Sitting area has been formed that is in direct vision from the head of Josie’s bed. This means that if she chooses to stay in bed, she will still be in direct contact with the remainder of her household. She can return to being part of her family, even when she would prefer to stay in bed.

The construction work began in July. It will be completed by the end of this month. Josie has been able to watch it go up, block by block and slate by slate from her bedroom window. She is delighted. And we are delighted too!

So just as I have written previously about the little shrine I did some work for at my local church, when I look back at the end of the year it will not be the blue ribbon projects that will stand out for me. The main highlights will not be the shaking hands with dignitaries or the champagne receptions or the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.  

It will be this little project.

It will be a piece of work I did that made a big difference to somebody’s life.

And you make a difference, one life at a time.


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