Monday, January 19, 2009

Bob the Builder Award: Dans in their blue windbreakers

I got this from a fantastic Rotarian this morning and loved it:

"Within everyday ordinary people, if you look closely, you can find some extraordinary things."

- Joseph Badaracco, Professor of Business Ethics
Harvard Business School

"The summer before his junior year in college my older brother Stan decided to run for the city council in our hometown of 40,000 residents. Enlisting family and friends, he ran a shoestring campaign and won the seat, barely defeating the incumbent who was also City Council President. Not everyone in our neighborhood seemed pleased with the results. The morning after election day, my brother's rust-studded yellow Fiat sported four flat tires.

That unlikely victory jump-started a career that included five terms on the city council and eight years as mayor. My parents, brothers and sisters learned the true meaning of the term "grassroots" - mostly, we were the roots.

With every campaign a corps of fresh and familiar faces called headquarters common ground. Family, high school and childhood friends, their fathers and mothers and others who knew some member of our family. Neighborhood organizers with a stake in the issues. Opportunists cultivating a post-election job or appointment. And committed volunteers whose enthusiasms and motives were not so readily pigeonholed.

Dan was one of these people. He showed up at headquarters in the early mornings, after work, on weekends and all day on election day. Dan did whatever needed to be done wearing his signature blue windbreaker, thick smudgy glasses and his good-to-be-around good nature.

No drama. No public "atta-boys" needed. Dan got it done, whatever "it" happened to be at the time.

One election day I was stationed for sign-holding with Dan near the polls at an elementary school. It was raining - the kind of biting, cats-and-dogs precipitation that New England likes to serve up in November. The ink bled on our signs. Dampness soaked the ground and seeped through our socks and gloves. Sharing the camaraderie of our miserable post, we paced and talked and tried not to lose the feeling in our fingers and toes.

With rain dripping off our noses and cars honking support as they passed us Dan talked about the campaign and why he volunteered. It was pretty simple in Dan's mind. He wasn't a speechmaker. He was an ordinary guy who loved his community. This was his way of making a difference.

Dan was ordinary and special, one-of-a-kind and and universal. Since my campaign days I've met dozens, hundreds of Dans.

Every community has them. Maybe they sit next to us in church. Maybe we run into them at the bank, met them once through a high school friend who knows their family or have kids or grandchildren who play soccer with their kids or grandchildren.

They put on their blue windbreakers and just get the job done because they love their communities and they want to make a difference. The Dans (and Danielles) in our communities have a lot in common with the members of our clubs.

Maybe it's time for us to put on our blue windbreakers and connect with a Dan or two.

No drama, no atta boys. Just a conversation between two people who love their community and want to make a difference. And the opportunity to make great things happen with a few more Dans in our midst.

Talked to a Dan lately?"

January 18th gratitude: a great atlas