If someone asked you to pull down a house using only rope and accurate placement, could you do it?
By yourself, no. The job is too hard and would take too long even if you could do it.
But wIth over 100 eager participants, bringing down an entire house takes less then 5 seconds.
Pulling down that house was a privilege. My small team of 21 volunteers joined over 100 others, grabbing the rope in our gloved hands and tugging on command, and watching an entire house come crashing down.
It was the culmination of a full day’s work in Moore, Oklahoma, where the cleanup continues long after the May 20th tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb, killing seven in the nearby Plaza Towers Elementary School and many more in the surrounding community. Together my team and many others worked all day to clear rubble from the neighborhood and place it in mounds suitable for city pick-up in August.
During those five days in Moore, Oklahoma, I never heard anyone on my team take credit for bringing down either of the houses we pulled to the ground. I don’t recall anyone fighting for a particular place of honor inside the shells that someone once called home as we formed work lines to pass debris and separate it from sentimental items that the owners might still want to have.
As we wandered through the tent community in Steelman Estates outside of Shawnee, Oklahoma, that was hit the night before the Moore tornado, the local volunteers who had been there for two months claimed no glory for how they had set up a propane-powered laundromat, dehydration tent to recover from the blistering work, barrel-topped shower, supply tent, or the air conditioners installed in the igloo tents that peppered the sloping terrain.
Instead of reckless ambition and elbow-bruised victims of someone else’s ego, all I saw was community. I saw people working together to make things happen. I saw money come out of pockets and find its way into the hands of tearful and grateful victims who were trying to rebuild without insurance benefits. I watched a man who might otherwise appear on the cover of a self-made-man-magazine lean humbly on his shovel and fight back tears as he witnessed a swarm of volunteers surround him to listen to his story of survival and offer help in the rebuilding process.
The short drive back to Dallas was filled with talk of how much we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time by simply working together and forgetting who got the credit for it. No one stood out as better or worse than the other. We all stood as one – in our accomplishments, in our experiences, and in our excitement at the thought of going back to help again.
Sometimes, in the middle of working to help a business grow, we forget about the real goal (the customer experience) and we focus on only ourselves. That attitude, or let’s be honest – a core value of self-centered greed – results in a less happy us, a less happy customer, and less being done in the end. But when we work together for the customer to have a positive experience, we all win in the end and much more gets done.
Thank you, Oklahoma, for reminding me what is important and how to get things done.