Sometimes it’s challenging being an American. We’re almost hard-wired to think we know the best way to do everything.
In a couple of weeks we’re going to have some visitors, a group of 15 high-school students and their adult leaders. While here they’re going to be doing a children’s program, an high-school cultural exchange thing and they’re going to be serving the community by helping to clean a stretch of trash-filled river.
I’ve never cleaned a river in my life, and I’ve never been a professional trash-picker-upper…but I’ve seen a lot of them on TV and hence my confidence about what kind of tools are necessary. And so I issued forth instructions to my faithful friend and co-worker, Kadir, a very faithful, but very poor man from a village near-by.
I explained to Kadir exactly what I wanted…the classic wooden stick with a nail on one end whereby trash may be spike and bagged without bending over. Kadir looked around town, but couldn’t find anything. He suggested he find some re-bar, cut it to length and bend a hook on one end. Then he’d put some hose over the hook to protect the sensitive American hands and grind a sharp point on the other end for the easy impalement of garbage.
I was skeptical about this design. Re-bar? A hook on one end? But, after some thought I leaned back on my instincts and thought to myself, “I’ve delegated the job to him, he knows what we’re trying to do…let him do it his way.”
I’m really glad I did. As he cranked out 15 of these pieces it occurred to me that the design is simple genius. We’re going to be working in a river bank. A hook is going to be perfect, not only as an aid to climbing in and out of said river, but also for grabbing trash, tires and junk just out of reach.
I’m a little embarrassed that I was resistant…and am glad I let him do it his way. Quite often I discover that my national co-workers know far better than I do exactly what will work and what won’t.