Roadpost #4: Results


I had meant to get there on Wednesday. I didn’t make it till Saturday. I missed all the action of volunteers stacking cans, building incredible CANstructions—a snake, a train, and the Empire State Building. I was sick in bed, and by the time I got there three days late, all I could photograph were the results. As incredible as they were, the results weren’t the story I was after.

I really wanted to see young people at work, volunteering to help the Food Bank of Northern Nevada by collecting cans of tuna, or corn, or beans, and then building something fantastic. I wanted to write about their excitement and energy. It didn’t work out. That happens. Still, I did find something to talk about—results.

Results are important, but results are my Achilles’ heel. I can get too focused on the goal, succeeding or failing, and lose touch with the value behind what I am doing. When it comes to volunteering, losing touch is a big sacrifice. I forsake the joy of giving and get all tense.

So I was really upset that I missed those students as they scurried around building their masterpieces. It ruined the post I had wanted to write. I felt defeated and considered not going on Saturday when I felt better, but I changed my mind, and I’m glad.

As I photographed one particularly amazing construction of cans, I overhead a woman tell her friend, “There were so many kids here on Wednesday, I was sure they would never get organized, but each student had a numbered card with the instructions for just the cans they had to place.” I smiled, picturing those young kids, fidgeting, giggling, and chatting as they waited their turn. I imagined, as they put the first can, second can, third can on the stack, they were thinking of the result—the juke box they were building. I realized, though, that the best result from that day would have never been captured in any photo I might have taken of them. Each can they stacked helped build in them an ethos based on being generous. The excitement and energy of doing good while having fun would never leave them.

So thanks to the Food Bank—and to the parents, teachers, and professionals who guided their project—because one of the best ways to build a community of volunteers is to start them young.

And speaking of results—I found a great story after all, one I might have overlooked if I hadn’t missed that day.

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