Friday, October 17, 2008

Pounding Nails

Yesterday I joined more than 100 other T-Mobile leaders and employees in a full work day at the Boys & Girls Club of Nashville ( The event was coordinated by City Year (, an arm of the AmeriCorps ( national service umbrella that seeks to impact communities in practical ways. We built and painted benches, bookshelves and tables; painted murals and motivational sayings across the walls and courtyards; painted entire rooms, and provided more than 200 backpacks full of school supplies for the numerous children that the club serves every weekday.

Beyond the opportunity to help the kids in such practical ways, one of the key things I personally appreciated was the chance to pound some nails and build two planter benches in a single day with a few of my colleagues. There's something very satisfying about seeing the immediate fruit of your labors. My full-time work is about motivating, equipping and transforming leaders toward optimal performance, but sometimes it takes a while to witness the blooming of that fruit. You plant and scatter seeds for a season, and the harvest can sometimes be delayed.

But the benches were finished; stained, painted and put into use immediately. A kid could sit there, taking a break from homework or basketball or whatever he happened to be doing at the moment. A place to rest in the midst of a life that can be a bit restless and chaotic. A spot for reflection.

It reminded me as well of the ubiquitous need we have to stay connected with the struggles, aspirations and hurts of those from other socio-economic categories. It is easy to stay in the bubble; in the church I call it the "Christian ghetto," where we comfortably stay immersed with those just like us. The greatest leaders across history, in business, politics and religion, have connected with individuals at multiple levels and life experiences.

Sometimes in life you just gotta pound nails. Sometimes you need to help create a seat for someone you don't normally see or understand to catch their breath. What yesterday taught me was to continue to discipline myself to pay attention and burst my bubbles on a regular basis.


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