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MARCH 31, 2010   

Helpful, hopeful

Issue 15 yard signEven though I don't do much volunteer work, Joe's request for help with assembling yard signs for an upcoming levy campaign sounded good. I did it a couple of years ago, and remembered it as kind of fun.

So last Saturday morning I joined dozens of other volunteers inside the huge Cleveland Foodbank building to put plastic signs on wire frames.

Joe and I arrived early, got cups of coffee from the refreshment table, and set up our two-person work station. For the next hour or two we bundled signs in batches of 25 and put them in boxes.

The time went fast even though the work itself was boring, dirty and repetitive. It felt good to be working together on something that wasn't about profit or personal advancement.

The video may give you a sense of why it felt so good. The group was as diverse—age, gender, race—as you're likely to find anywhere.

People worked amazingly hard for no money, no fame, just the satisfaction of supporting a good cause.

Things were organized but no one was giving orders. People cooperated, worked together, set their own pace (fast), took breaks when they wanted to, and got the job done.

If only we could do this more.

I know that much of this was possible because we knew we'd be working for only a couple of hours. If we had 60,000 signs to do instead of 6,000, stress and fatigue would have become a factor. If we did this 8 hours a day, 5 days a week instead of 2 hours on a Saturday, boredom would probably replace satisfaction.

But still, it's good to see people at their best. Gives me hope for the future.


The Last Truck, a movie about workers in a GM assembly plant recently closed by the company, shares a similar view of cooperation, pride and love.

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