For all my positivity talk and changing my thinking patterns, there is nothing like the 3D efforts of working to change the world we live in to bring a reality check. We spent the weekend clearing out most of the grass for the new courtyard design at our local high school. Ideas are where things start; but truly, moving dirt and rocks, digging stubborn clumps of sod out of hard clay soil is the real work of making the world a better place. Like a pendulum, I swung between grumbling about giving up my entire weekend to the efforts, to basking in the sweet and surprising balm of building community in the process.
Yesterday, the community was only two heroic dads and I, who gave up their Saturday to a stubborn and inconsistent sod cutter. First off,† a sod cutter is some seriously hard working machinery. I did my share of pulling the shaking machine through the tall grass (note to self: cut the grass) and when my spirits were flagging because of the weight of the work ahead, Alan, one of the fathers laughingly reminded me: “This ainít hard work. Think of all the other places in the world where life is really hard. This is a walk in the park.” He then revved up the sod cutter engine for another go. He stepped in to help after another dad, Jim, had accidentally broken a rib earlier in the week. Even so, Jim was there the whole time tirelessly †moving cut sod, fixing, shifting gears, cutting burning grass from the gears.
Through the afternoon, I learned things about these men that years of sitting in the bleachers during basketball games had never taught me. I marveled at their stories of faraway places, best fishing trips and tending thousands of sheep as a small boy, and remembered again how little we know the people we think we know and just how much we connect with others in the process of working side by side. Positivity truly does grow in community and I have yet to witness a process that is more binding than that of shared effort in pursuit of a goal that is bigger than you.
Today, the second work day, we had members of a community church show up to aid us. More than a dozen members came without even knowing much of the background of the project with shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows, making small talk with the kids and parents from the Positive Change group. It was really heartening to see again how community grows out of the willingness to work side by side, even with strangers.
Still, my positivity pendulum was swinging for much of the day. It is easy in the midst of a huge work project to feel utterly overwhelmed and then, instead of feeling consciously grateful for the help that is present, lamenting the help that didnít show up. This project is teaching me in the most grounded of ways that when you are working, the help you have is actually all the help you needed. And, not surprisingly, the people who show up consistently are often the ones you have made friends with, helping each other out over time. They are the first people you call and, happily, you donít need that many of these kind of friends to change the world. But the more you give up the story of who isnít there, the more room there is for new friends to come in.
Here is the other really big lesson of the day in the name of positivity: learn to be present and content with the work that is complete. Leaning forward to what is next not only depletes the accomplishment of the day but also is impossible to figure out from where you are. Living in the moment, all gets done. Being present is the only place that gives gratitude the space to live and expand. For now, reveling in some progress and considering what kind of† high school iron man contest might be invented to move a mountain of† gravelÖ
Related: Positive Thinking in Action