Recently, I was in charge of a large outdoor event at the college where I work. Part of my help came in the form of student volunteers.
From that experience I was reminded of a few basic principles of human nature: Some volunteers show up, some don’t.
Some volunteers did a slacker job of what they were asked to do. Some did exactly what they were asked to do. Some did exactly what they were asked to do and then asked if there was something more they could do.
Some were there because they sincerely wanted to help.
Some showed up because they were interested in someone else who responded to the request for help and hey, it’s impressive to work shoulder-to-shoulder with your love interest, even if you’re just manning a popcorn machine.
Some came, figured out what needed to be done and just went ahead and did it without stopping. Which is why the same gal ground ice at the snow cone machine for a solid three hours. Speaking of solid, I pity the poor idiot who would ever try to arm wrestle her. She’s buff.
And some came to impress their friends with everything but their actual work skills. Ever notice how some people have perfected the ability to show up, make themselves very visible, but never actually do anything? Well, except get the free t-shirt and eat the food. Fortunately, nearly all my volunteers weren’t like that, with one noticeable exception.
He was outgoing, aggressive, captivating, engaging, and the girls flocked to him. He spent most of his time posing for his adoring fans, as in, “Here I am flashing a gorgeous smile at the cake table. Here I am waiting to get a cotton candy which I will generously share with some lucky person of my choosing. Here I am looking cool while you all just hang around me…”
His actual assignment was to help clean up at the conclusion of the event — mundane tasks like collecting trash, rolling up electrical cords, folding up tables and chairs. What he actually did was interfere with the productivity of most of the females also assigned to clean up. His biggest contribution would have been to just leave. But no, he was working too hard at not working at all.
What neither he nor his adoring entourage noticed was the young man who apparently knew how to push a broom and actually did it. With precision. He coaxed popcorn kernels from the sidewalk cracks, dug piles of stray cotton candy out of the corners, and swept up every size and shape of trash in his path. Very methodically he worked his way from one end of the plaza to the other.
Since I was also pushing a broom, I visited with him as we swept along. He’s from out of state, has been at the college for a couple of semesters, and learned how to work from his dad. He’s putting himself through school by working two jobs while keeping a high grade point average. I also learned he wasn’t one of our volunteers, at least not formally. But he’d been walking by, seen the need, and stopped to help.
I glanced over at the gaggle of goofy girls surrounding the “I-only-came-for-the-t-shirt-and-attention” fellow. It wouldn’t do any good to holler out to them, “Hey! You’re barking up the wrong tree!” But I sure wanted to. I’m not sure how the message would have come out exactly, but it would have been something like, “When times get tough, do you want the guy who knows how to shirk or the one who knows how to work?”
If she’d just stop and think about it for half a moment, any rational woman would bet on a guy who knows how to push a broom.
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