I noticed as I walked by the pile was not very high. She had been working for a couple of hours, I reasoned the pile should have been 4 or 5 times higher by this point. On my way back I stopped to have a few words with the young lady? "How are you doing Angie?"
She was not okay. The slumped shoulders, dull drooping eyes, the slow movement, reminded me of a working sleeper. Pulling up a chair I began working opposite her at the table. As we talked, I watched her with interest and within a few minutes her speed had surpassed mine. She told me of the university she hoped to attend next fall, the classes she wanted to take first. As she talked her eyes began to flash and that great Angie smile began to emerge. The voice went from boredom to full of energy. We worked together for 15 – 20 minutes before I left and went back to my office.
Sitting at my desk I let my mind fade back to my youth where an old man taught me how an old guy can work alongside a struggling young person and give him back his hope. A landscape of debris stretched out around me. It was a mountain sized clean up job; a near finished apartment complex of several hundred units and it was my job to pick up every scrap of wood and paper. The sun had long past beaten the hope out of me and I like Angie was slogging along slowly at the never ending task. The boss, a man in his seventies saw my grubbing along and began to work alongside me asking me questions, telling me about his pet peeve lumber waste. Holding up a 12 inch piece of siding – see this? 15 cents and it is worthless except for the scrape pile. We worked together for an hour and the progress was significant. He then left me to work on my own. Now and then he came back and would work alongside of me for a few minutes. He never once shamed me for being lazy but only praised me when he saw improvement.
As I checked on Angie during the day her speed would now and then drop and once again we would work together. The second day I only needed to sit with her once. By the third day she no longer needed this old guy, she now knew how to work at a high level of production without losing her hope.
Young people sometimes need older folks to help them change their perspective.
I am grateful for the old man. He could of brow beat me but he had the wisdom to know I had been doing plenty of my own personal brow beating. He knew what I needed and he gave it to me. Maybe you will someday find a young person who needs a little hope. Your example will be much more powerful than your words. Stop, help him/her out, work alongside and watch them change – it’s pretty exciting.