There’s a little community where a few neighbors got together to convert an unused patch of land into a children’s park. A great deal of effort was invested to transform nothing into something. They charge no entrance fee and welcome all volunteers to help run and improve the park. Most people enjoy the community spirit and contribute whatever they can, small or large, to keep the park running.
- Sometimes the swing set is unavailable because it’s being painted, repaired, or expanded.
- The slide didn’t survive its first winter and had to be completely rebuilt.
- The signage, explaining the park’s rules, isn’t always kept up to date.
- The solar-electric lighting doesn’t always last the entire night.
For the people who had rolled up their sleeves, to turn nothing into something, these were just additions to their to-do list. They’ll eventually get done and it’s all part of their labor of love.
One new neighbor pitched in to improve the lighting. Another took time to paint new signs. Yet another, a civil engineer, loved the simple task of building an elegant new slide. It became the park’s centerpiece and loved by children of all ages.
Not all neighbors were equally pleased with the park’s problems. They didn’t appreciate being inconvenienced, especially the time the swing set was closed for painting. They exclaimed “Why wasn’t it done at night?”
They grumbled the park wasn’t like the one over in Anytown. Anytown’s property taxes were substantially higher, and they charged an entrance fee, and they made few improvements, but at least their swing set was always available and the slide never collapsed.
The people who had worked hard for many years suggested that the park could be almost anything you wanted it to be but it required a personal contribution of time and effort. Displeased neighbors scoffed at the idea. “I’ve never used a hammer in my life! I wouldn’t know which end to use!” To which they were suggested to pick up a broom and sweep the walkways or to supervise the children. The suggestion was met with equal disdain.
- “Who has time for that? I have a real job.”
- “I sweep my own walkway and that’s enough for me, thank you very much.”
- “Why don’t you charge an admission fee and hire people to run your little park?”
Given that the park’s very existence was due to the collective efforts of volunteers, there wasn’t much the unhappy neighbors could offer except complaints. For all those who couldn’t paint, saw, sweep, mow, or even just supervise the kids playing in the park, they were recommended to use Anytown’s park.
This suggestion only upset them even more. Now they felt they were being driven away. The volunteers were accused of being hammer-swinging exclusionists. They insisted their complaints were equally valuable contributions. It takes mental effort to devise complaints. All the volunteers should heed their complaints otherwise tens, hundreds, even thousands of neighbors would leave the park. Perhaps the problem is that the volunteers lacked the mental capacity to understand their complaints.
Meanwhile, in Anytown, park officials were carefully monitoring the situation at the community-run park. They were impressed with its facilities and concerned by the migration of their park users to the community park. Each patron they lost was a potential new volunteer for improving the community park and making it an even greater attraction.
They were even more concerned by the influx of new users to their park who seemed to be hard to please and complained endlessly.
- “Why is the entrance fee so high?”
- “Why are there so few improvements?”
- “This slide sucks. Have you seen the other one? Wow! Now that’s a slide!”
- “You call this a lawn? The grass is greener in the other park!”