About thirty parents were standing around the softball fields with rakes and shovels yesterday morning, poised to groom the fields after a winter of abuse, to help our girls have a place to play ball this spring. The turnout was great and everyone was in the spirit to be outside and help one another get the job done. There was one big problem however and that was that we had only one wheelbarrow. So one load of dirt at a time was being hauled from the parking lot all the way out to the infield. Six or eight people with rakes would attack it and level it in moments and then they and the other twenty or so folks would stand around waiting for another load to show up. It would take all day to get the job done at this rate and it was apparent that we should have brought more wheelbarrows.
It seemed like an easy enough problem to solve though, since the field is surrounded by a neighborhood. Wearing my dirt-covered work gloves, in my dirty jeans and with windblown hair, I knocked on doors. The first lady I got was in curlers and an old-fashioned duster and seemed flustered that someone was outside the door. But when I told her we were cleaning up the fields behind her house and that we were short some wheelbarrows she gladly offered hers. I should have targeted folks with better wheelbarrows though because hers actually had holes in it, and although we used it we were afraid we’d break it. That sent me to some more houses and I found Louis answering his door. He was so glad to help he got out his pump and inflated the flat tire on his. When I came running across the field with a second quite functional wheelbarrow the folks standing at the dirt pile cheered.
Before long I’d secured another even larger wheelbarrow along with another set of hands in the owner of that one. All told we had three extra wheelbarrows, and suddenly the job was going by at a rate three times faster.
People I found at home that morning couldn’t wait to help a crowd of folks cleaning up the park they lived next to. When they heard we were picking up garbage and grooming the fields they were delighted to help.
Everyone wants to be a hero and by asking neighbors to loan us their tools, admitting we had many hands but had neglected to come prepared, these folks were eager to jump in and save the day. I mean it. Every person I asked either agreed to loan us their wheelbarrow, or if they didn’t have one suggested a neighbor who did.
My crowd of parents thought I was the hero. But the truth is all I did was ask.
I loved seeing how eager people were to help out, and I loved seeing how easy it was to make that happen. My colleagues marveled at this simple task of asking for what we wanted, but by admitting we were ill-prepared yet determined to get the job done folks saw an opportunity to be heroes. Who wouldn’t take that?
The thing I learned yesterday morning is that you just have to ask for what you want because good will begets good will.