That Time I Found Myself…

Day Thirteen: Serially Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

Most mornings I like to sit down with a cup of tea and peruse my work email.  That day was a little different, something unique had shown up and I thought I’d look through it first.  A note asking if I had an interest in volunteering to help build a playground in Washington, D.C.  It wasn’t just the request that caught my eye, but the sender as well.  The Washington Capitols had made the offer.  I’m just a casual hockey fan, a Boston Bruins one at that.  But it sounded like the type of thing I wanted to do, needed to do.

My office allows for people to take time off without using any leave to do charity work.  So I called up Human Resources and asked how to code it in PeopleSoft.  They just said mark it miscellaneous.  Did I have to prove what I was doing?  Oh, just take a picture for our wall of accomplishments and we’ll call it even.  Well that was generous!  Wonder how many people walk up to some charity event and take a picture then head off to the movies?

They scheduled me for two days worth of activity.  The first being a get to know you scenario where they learned if I could hold a hammer without needing medical assistance later.  I even spent some of my day working various saws trying to fashion the beginnings of park benches and trellises for flowers to be planted, or maybe they were just for shade.  I don’t recall.  By the end of the day, I was completely sunburned, tired, and had been assigned a small group of my own for the next day’s fun.

Having learned that I had no patience for D.C. traffic after manual labor, I called my dad and asked him to drop me off at the Metro station on his way into the office.  6 a.m. I’m standing on a platform with a dozen other people dressed in their best professional attire, me in hiking boots and a crappy t-shirt.  My savior being I was carrying a copy of the Wall Street Journal, so the eyes averted for a second trying to understand the picture before them.

By 8 a.m. I was dancing like a child, doing jumping jacks and wearing a colorful umbrella on my head.  A scene that would have made any of my friends or family wonder who they were looking at.  Calling out the names of the people on my team, trying to get them excited for the labor we were going to accomplish, scared I was going to screw this up when someone realized I’m just a guy who tinkers with tools on the weekends.

By the end of the day, I was covered in sweat, mulch, and a little blood from having taken a whack at my thumb.  But the other thing that I was covered in was so much better, pride and sense of accomplishment.

I rode that wave of good feelings all the way home.  You turn on some interview with a surfer and they talk about that perfect moment, that wave they sat all morning waiting for.  Only to ride it in and hope they sometime find that same feeling within themselves later.  For the next week I kept bragging about the project and how I felt.  It had become the park I had built.  Those other 50 people didn’t figure into my narrative.

I found something within myself that I haven’t felt since and wish I could.  There are times when I know I’m doing the things that need to be done, and the reasons they have to be done that way.  Others sometimes find it cold, some find it hard to accept that I shut it out in a conversation only to have it occupy my thoughts later.  For one afternoon, I did something that reaches out beyond the people I see, to a group of people I don’t know and will never meet.  Right now some mother is sitting on a bench I built watching her child slide down a rainbow colored tube.  A father is holding his child’s hand while pushing then gently back and forth on a swing.  I helped to do that.

For a few days I found myself.  Not the guy in the office who grumbles when things aren’t quite right.  It wasn’t about me being a son or boyfriend.  I wasn’t that guy with the cancer.  No one asked my advice on some work project.  My education didn’t matter to a single person.  For an afternoon I was just some guy with a hammer and nails building a park and it was the greatest feeling in the world to me.


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