Friday, April 23, 2010

Marquette University High School: Bro-tucky Oh Ten

From February 14-20, we had boys from Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin come down to the Farm. Going from the all girls group to this testosterone fest was certainly a jarring juxtaposition. The guys were a lot of fun and brought a lot of energy to the week and never stopped having a good time.

The week certainly didn't start out as raucous as it ended. The boys were strangely silent during the tour and orientation. We were actually starting to get concerned that they wouldn't talk the entire time they were at the Farm, which would have made the week very difficult. Turns out this was only a clever ruse to lull us into a false sense of security.

The boys were also stuck on the Farm for a day as well. They were perfectly content to hang around the Farm and do some stuff to help us out. Much like the girls from Assumption had built the box for the sports equipment, the Marquette boys built a set of shelves for the T Shirt store. In the front of our house we have a few tables that hold the Glenmary shwag that the students can buy at the end of the week. With all the different merchandise, it's difficult to fit all of it onto the tables. So the boys went to work measuring and cutting wood for the shelf. In the end they were victims of the shoddy materials they had to work with. The end product was a little lopsided and prone to tipping. However, when Jamie saw it, she rightly pointed out that it was perfect. It was an odd sentiment seeing as how it looked about as vertically level as the Tower of Pisa (and less structurally sound). But she had a point. All it needed to do was hold some clothes and for that, it was perfect. It may not have looked flashy, but it got the job done.

Besides, the end product wasn't really the point. The point was all the work that had gone into the project. In this world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, we often lose sight of the journey while focusing on the end destination. There are a lot of upsides to focusing on the end product. It ensures that you produce something of worth. But I think an obsessive focus on demanding perfection out of the end result sometimes trivializes the effort it takes to get there. There is as much value in the process as there is in the product. In fact, when you think about it, the process is necessary for anything to be produced. Sometimes I think we forget that.

If you'll allow me a quick analogy (cue collective groan from my readership), I'd like to use one of my passions to illustrate the point: Sports. Specifically, I'd like to use the NHL playoffs. Those who know me know that I am a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan. The Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite what Dane Cook and his atrocious THERE IS ONLY ONE OCTOBER ads may have to say, are widely recognized as some of the most grueling and meaningful weeks in all of sports. They produce some truly iconic moments that live on in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. It was a thrilling ride watching the Pens as they fought their way to a third Stanley Cup during last years playoff run. Watching Mad Max Talbot Shush Philly, Marc Andre Fleury stonewall Ovi, and Malkin unleash his liquor-license-revoking backhand on Cam Ward was witnessing small moments of greatness. They culminated in Sidney Crosby becoming the youngest captain to hoist the Silver Chalice. But focusing only on that image of Crosby with the Cup is to ignore all the small moments that went into its achievement. When I see that picture I see all those moments of brilliance that happened along the way. Those little moments of triumph are reasons why tears well up in the eyes of players as they take their skate with the Cup.

In the same way, accomplishing a task and the feeling of satisfaction one gets from it is a culmination of all the hard work that goes into the task. Truly appreciating the journey is at the crux of lot of the things we do at the Farm. With volunteers working, sometimes the shelves don't come out level or the walls don't get an even coat of paint, but the real value is in the doing. That's why Jamie was so right when she said that the shelf was perfect. It was perfect because it showed the Marquette boys the value of the journey.

There was one other noteworthy event from the week. It happened late one afternoon while I was preparing dinner. A group was returning with Colleen from work site. I saw them pull in and begin to go around the roundabout. I went back to making dinner but became concerned when I didn't hear the cars pull into the parking area. I peeked out the window to see a partially obstructed view of the cars idling over by the bridge with a gaggle of boys milling about. I figured that the Snitch had gotten stuck in the snow so I went out to see what was up. As I got nearer to the scene, my jaw dropped in wonderment and I did a 37436363 take to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. It was not the Snitch that was in trouble, but BRT. And by trouble I mean that the front driver side tire was completely hanging off the concrete bridge leading into The Farm. I guess Colleen had misjudged the bridge with all the snow and BRT veered off the edge. It was being held up by the front axle, which was catching on the concrete. This made simply reversing BRT off of the bridge impossible. Thus we had the surreal scene of hooking up the chain to BRT and pulling it with The Snitch. As the Snitch is less than 4 wheel drive, it was tough going. But with some effort and a little cardboard for traction, we managed to rescue BRT.

Dramatic reenactment