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.”