Throughout human history, what has created community and provided the structures that build into friendship and intimacy is shared work. We have lost sight of this fact in our highly technological and automated world, and it is rare that we find ourselves at work with people of all ages, side by side moving gravel or tilling fields. Our Positive Change Memorial Courtyard is offering us this opportunity to work and build community and it continues to surprise me by how much I receive from the experience of giving.
Earlier this week, Gregg, one of the student government students messaged me that his class needed a work project and asked if they could participate ours planned for Memorial Day. One of my maxims is to never turn away willing workers. Plus, being together in our own Memorial courtyard project seemed natural and right today. I sent out several texts and emails asking for more help, but I am never really sure who will come or what we will be able to accomplish. It doesn’t work for my expectations to lead. The courtyard project is teaching me over and over again that it is all about being open to whatever comes and leading with gratitude for any and every effort.
One of the great gifts that have come to our project is a steady cooperation with a church community that shares the high school space. Robert, the volunteer coordinator, never disappoints with his willingness and cheerful nature, which is matched by his incredible community of volunteers who help every time we call. Their adult leadership and genuine interest in the kids and the project has changed the nature of our work, from cajoling the kids to creating cooperative work groups. It gives me a whole new insight into the meaning of church community and Robert invited me to sit with him if I want to try it.
One of the most rewarding aspects of working on this project, which was magnified today, is the participation of many of the parents and siblings of the kids in the club. Today, we all got to witness a tender family reunion with an older sister returning from college to find her younger siblings in the courtyard. Our work parties include people of all ages and there is something so comforting and reassuring about work that can include everyone. The young boys stand aside watching and learning as the men show them how to work the tillers and shovel gravel from the bottom of the pile.
On my way to pick up the donated roto-tillers this morning, unsure of whether I or anyone there would know how to work them, I realized that my positivity skill set is building. I am not anxious anymore by not knowing what will happen and my misgivings about dedicating my entire day off to the project are wisps of a thought. The deeper I go into this project, the more certain I am that however much I give it of my time and energy is little in comparison to what I get back.
Robert has come to know me well enough that today he told me to start forming a steering committee. “You are the visionary that has translated your vision to the kids, but that doesn’t cover the details.” He has witnessed my struggles to translate this vision into practical application more than once. I smile, “Great idea. How about you are the first member of the steering committee….” A positive vision becomes real the more people that share it. Now we have moved our first truck load of gravel, we have our first path and one member of the steering committee.
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