A few years ago I helped cut the ribbon for a pretty amazing project at the Amos Herr Park in East Hempfield Township. It was the culmination of nearly three years of planning that resulted in the completion of a nearly half-acre playground full of activity and gathering space for children of all ages and abilities. The entire structure was built by community volunteers in a whirlwind of mud, sawdust and extension cords during 12 days of the hardest work that I’ve ever been part of.
I learned so many lessons during this project – but one of the most important lessons I learned can be illustrated by one particular aspect of this project that will stick with me. Part of the early work involved taking these extremely heavy structural poles and setting them vertically in a hole that had been dug in the ground. These formed the foundation of the playground structure. Picture a wooden deck on the back of a house…these were the corner posts – on steroids. Hundreds of them…
Some of the posts were as long as 22′ (more than two stories tall) and weighed many hundreds of pounds. To set these suckers into place we would get 8 or 9 people to carry the post on our shoulders, weave our way through the worksite and lower the end into the pre-dug hole. Then we’d lift the post into place, level and brace it, and backfill the hole.
Inevitably as we lifted these posts into place there would come a point where I felt like I was pushing with all the strength that I could possibly muster. And just when I felt like I couldn’t give anything more, someone would yell “PUSH!” and I’d think “What?!?!….I’m giving it all I have…This isn’t going to work…I’ve got nothing left…”
But even as those thoughts filled my head…somehow…the post would rise up and settle into place.
Just as I was at the end of my own strength, the group of neighbors surrounding me at the post would collectively give just a little more and get the job done. This happened over and over during the project. Not just during construction, but also during the planning, design, fundraising phases that preceded. Just when I thought I had everything on my shoulders and I couldn’t possibly give any more, someone (many someones!) in the community would step up and just take care of business.
It was such a wonderful lesson about how accomplishing great things requires a community working together toward a common vision – and that no one person can carry the burden on their own. I think about the things that I’ve been blessed to accomplish in my life and none of them – NOT ONE! – has been done without the help of a community of friends, co-workers, family and partners that have been there to work alongside me. That’s what being designed for community is about…helping each other get things done. Because none of us can do it on our own.