Turn The Dirt

I remember waking up more excited than usual to meet a new day.  My father in law was involved in a local groundbreaking, and had been able to procure us to front row seats. People may find it hard to believe that someone could get excited for a simple groundbreaking, but, this groundbreaking was for a unique building that had a particular significance to our community. Dressed in my suit and tie, my wife Kolette and I headed to the build site for the ceremony.

We arrived, were directed to VIP parking, and an usher escorted us to our seats. On the stage, sat local, state, and national government and ecclesiastical leaders. Both video and print news representatives were on hand to report on the event.

The ceremonies began. There are musical numbers from a local choirs and comments from the leaders on the stand. Then the moment arrived and the highest ranking leaders grabbed gold shovels and broke the ground. The media closed in to get just the right shot. After the highest-ranking leaders had done their job, it was time for officials like my father-in-law to follow suit.

As they invited him to come up and grab a shovel, my father-in-law encouraged me to join him.  We approach the dig site, and he handed me a shovel.  I looked at the shovel and tried to figure out how I was going to “break the ground.”  Without the use of my hands, or full use of my arms one could say without much hyperbole that I’m not real strong with a shovel. But, in front of the crowd I did my best to do my part.

With Kolette’s dad in front of me, and with the crowd watching on, I grabbed the shovel.  I clasped the center of the shovel with my left hand, slid my right hand above the top of the shaft and tried to see if I could get that shovel in the ground and turn some dirt. The head of the shovel made it into the ground, but as I worked to move the earth, the top of  the handle slid out of my right hand.

With cameras rolling and flashes blazing, my shovel flew forward with impressive speed nearly smacking my father-in-law square in the head. A look of terror slowly encompassed my face, and as I turned to retake my place in the crowd hoping to avoid any further embarrassment, I saw Kolette.

Without being asked, and without drawing any more attention to an already tenuous situation, she quietly made her way to my side.  Kolette picked the shovel up from off the ground and invited me to make another attempt with her help.  Together, we were able to get the head into the ground and successfully turn the dirt.

So often through the course of our lives we work to do things that seem easy at first only to find failure. Even knowing my limitations I never would have guessed that simply participating in a groundbreaking I would’ve nearly turned my father-in-law into the headless horseman in front of hundreds of people and major media. But it happened, I failed. Then, I was taught a powerful lesson.

When we see others fail, like Kolette, we need to jump up and help to make things more steady. We can’t just stand idly by assuming people would rather fail alone then succeed with help.  If we do, more people will fail than need to. They will fail and without saying a word take their seat back in the crowd hoping to avoid further humiliation, just like I would have done at the groundbreaking. However, if we will stop when we see those around us frustrated with their inabilities, we have an opportunity to help.  A chance to let others see that with li.ttle help they can turn their near failures into genuine successes. I was so grateful that day that my experience didn’t have to end at experience with failure.

No one wants to fail. Everyone wants to succeed, even if it’s with a little help. So watch for those in your lives whose shovels may be getting a little out of their control. Then, without being asked, and without fanfare, go to their side, pick up their shovel, and help them, “turn the dirt.”

14 Responses to Turn The Dirt

  1. Andrea says:

    Thank you for sharing this today… Congratulations on the new blog – Love it already!!! And your keynote at Creative Escape was wonderful! My uncle (who is like a father to me) had suffered a massive stroke a few prior to the event. He is a lifelong competive swimmer – and by telling him about the champion within… I was finally able to find the right words and the right time. Thank you Jason… from both of us… Andrea

  2. Andrea says:

    p.s. I am using my “Good Book” everyday 🙂

  3. Monica Gunn says:

    Hi, This brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my heart. I have a 7year old boy that had a stroke prior to birth. He tries to do everything himself and does pretty good. But he still needs help from time to time.

    Your right it is very easy for people to sit by and watch, but it takes a real human to step in and help even if it is just a little. We can all learn to be more giving of ourselves. It amazes me that so many people just walk on by without seeing if a smile or a helping hand would help another person.

    Reading your blog is a true inspiration! I already read Kollette’s blog. Thank you so much for sharing of yourself! You are an inspiration to all!!! Monica

  4. Lisa Roberts says:

    Thank you for this. I already see an opportunity with my five year old son who is learning his first four site words. I was thinking that he should do it all himself. I’m off to lend a hand with his shovel.

  5. Jh- says:

    Love to see the power of service in action in your lives. It inspires me to do more to help others. -Jason

  6. Bree Ross says:

    Thanks, Jason, I needed that today. It was an especially difficult day taking my mom to dialysis.

    My best.

  7. Melissa Cavanaugh says:

    love this post! thanks for the inspiration!
    Love to you both!

  8. Amy H says:

    Thank you so much for this. It reminds me of the Winder Dairy Wonder!
    Amy in Wisconsin

  9. LisaW says:

    You are such an awesome story teller, Jason! What a joy it is to come read them!

    How true. Once again, you’ve made me stop and think.

    My mother is “on wheels,” having suffered a stroke after heart surgery. It often amazes me how invisible she is when we are out – how easy it is for the hurried to push past her, and how others seem embarrassed by her limitations, pretending not to notice that she may be in need of a smile or a hand.

    But your story, and Kolette’s selfless act of love and support, remind me of how our roles have changed. Being there to help and support my mother, in the same way that she helped and supported me throughout my life. No. No burden there. A very fortunate daughter I am.

  10. lisa d says:

    What a wonderful story to share Jason, thank you. I will pay closer attention to helping others “dig”. Great, great lesson. Thank you.

  11. Sara A says:

    Thank you for sharing that story with us — often times I have been told that its an insult or degrading to help someone who seemingly wants to be self-sufficient…it never made sense to me! Today while I was at the dentist, a woman was coming out of the office in a wheelchair, she was struggling with the door…and I saw her out the corner of my eye…not knowing whether I should help or not, I figured what is the worst thing that can happen? She would be upset with me that I helped her? That’s silly…so I did help with the door and she was very happy and relieved and said she was glad I noticed her and offered to help… it made me feel GOOD! I think we have to forget about “protocal” and think about good manners and helping humanity overall and we can’t go wrong…thanks for confirming that for me!

    I enjoy your blog! I’m adding you to my “everyday” list!



  12. Lyn Meeker says:

    I’ve been amazed that each and every story I have heard come from your lips .. can relate to something I am experiencing or have experienced. Listening to you at Creative Escape had me in laughter one minute and tears the next. (Always the good kind of tears!)

    – I was “Mona” in fourth grade .. lucky for me it was only fourth grade .. and this was back in the ’60’s mind you.. but I bet I met two of the original “MEAN GIRLS” back then! How sad is it that I can remember their names? Becky and Debbie

    – My mom had to pull me off of a kid three times bigger than me (I had to be 7 or 8 at the time) because he called my brother a retard. I got in trouble for it .. but boy did it feel good! – I can’t remember his name .. maybe I’m over that one!

    – My father lost the use of his legs several years ago .. and has gone through struggles dealing with it all .. not to mention how weird the medication made him.. and after listening to my mom tell me for 5 years straight that “this may be his last Christmas” .. I finally went out .. to find him slightly drugged up .. but still in reasonably good health (for a 77 year old!) … and when I went back this past August .. complete turnaround .. his medication must be finally adjusted correctly, he’s doing his physical therapy with determination AND HUMOR (I got to watch him go through therapy .. and as he was inbetween the balance bars and the PT was counting up four sets of ten .. told her that HIS DAUGHTER WAS GOING TO BE A PT BUT COULD COUNT HIGHER THAN TEN! LOL! First joke I’ve heard him tell in years!)

    – Then two months after CE ’06 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer … hit it head on – chemo did suck like they say .. but that was only 4 months out of my entire life.. so in the scheme of all things .. just a blip! …

  13. Lyn Meeker says:

    Had more to say .. but my computer closed down! At least it warned me! LOL!

    – Lastly … I just wanted to say thank you! You are a great inspiration and a reminder to find the good in life!

  14. Jana D says:

    Your stories are great. Thank you for sharing them with us. You are a great inspiration to us all.

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