Monday, April 10, 2017

The Wind & The Trampoline

This is a story of teamwork and determination. Sometimes the smallest events in our lives reinforce our greatest leadership lessons.

A cold, rainy, incredibly windy day in April. Gotta love the Midwestern weather. A typical Thursday routine. We left the house, heading for school. Bundled up and ready for a great day, we left the house in good spirits despite the undesirable weather.

It rained all the day. The ground was saturated. But more than that, the wind was nasty. It was nothing we hadn’t experience before, but combined with the rain, it was just ugly outside. Honestly, it was a perfect day for a warm fire and chicken noodle soup.

After a good day at school, the boys and I headed home for another regular routine for the evening. As we pulled in the driveway, looking at all the little pools of water everywhere, we noticed something was not quite right when we drove up to the house. Our trampoline was missing!

The wind today was nasty, but nothing we hadn’t experienced before. Typically, the trampoline doesn’t even move in these “wind storms”. But, as we looked around the yard more closely, we all saw the image at the same time. The wind won today! The trampoline was trapped in the woods!

The wind was still blowing. The rain was still pouring sideways. I got the boys inside, put on my Muck boots, and headed outside to check out the damage.

The trampoline took a bit of a beating, but not as bad as it could have been. It was wedged tightly in a small clearing just on the edge of the woods, finding its way on top of thorns and a bunch of brush and limbs we had just recently cleared out of another part of our yard. The jumping mat was still intact - no punctures even though the trampoline was stuck in trees, limbs, and thorny bushes. The enclosure poles were a different story. The wind definitely took them for a ride, twisting them around as the net became the parachute to carry the trampoline 100 yards away from its “home”.

I went back inside to check on the boys’ progress with their homework, debating on my next move. Should we wait until the wind dies down and move it? Wait until my husband gets home so he can help? Or should the boys and I give this a try?

I went back outside in the rain and wind to survey this a bit more. This was a tough decision. Sometimes decisions take an extra glance or two. In the end, I determined that we had to get this trampoline out of these nasty thorns, vines, and branches. This wind would bend the frame more and possibly tear the jumping mat. So, we couldn’t wait.

I went inside to break the news to the boys. “Boys, we have to move the trampoline now. If we don’t, we might not be able to keep it. Yes, you are going to get wet, but that is ok because we can wash your coats. Yes, you are going to get muddy, because there are pools of water and mud everywhere. It is cold, and we know the trampoline is very heavy, so it will take all of us. Let’s do this guys. We can do it.”

We all put on our gear - boots, coats, hats, and gloves. We marched outside together, rain and wind battering our faces, talking about the strategy we were going to use to get this heavy, 8 foot trampoline out of the muddy woods. It was clearly stuck, and we were going to get it out. Mom, 6-year-old, 8-year-old, and 10-year-old, in the 40 degree rain and wind.

I made my way through the woods so I could get to the back side of the trampoline. I was going to push while the boys pulled. I trudged through the swampy mess of sticks and thorns, getting to a position, as the boys were on the grassy side of the trampoline, ready to take my direction. I put all of the enclosure poles down so the wind could not mess with them anymore. Here we go.

“Ok boys, on the count of 3, you lift with all you’ve got and pull. I will lift up as high as I can and push. 1, 2, 3!” And we did. The trampoline went nowhere. “Ok, let’s try that again. 1, 2, 3!” This time, we put a little more kick into it. The trampoline budged a few inches forward.

We did this over and over again. At one point, we stopped as I pulled larger branches and thorns out of the way. We went inch by inch, moving branches and vines as they pulled and I pushed. We grunted and cheered each other on. At one point, I fell into the muck that surrounded me, but we pushed forward. Each of us stopped after 10 minutes of this, looked at each other thinking we weren’t going to make it, then we all said in unison, “We can do this. One more time. This last one is a big one. 1, 2, 3!”

Our final push/pull was an amazing one, as the thorns and branches fell from the bottom of the trampoline. We set it down in the grass not far from the wooded area, seeing the small bends in the main frame, but happy we pulled through. We grabbed a couple of wood pallets and bricks, using the tools around us to make sure that trampoline wasn’t going anywhere without us moving it again.

With high fives, exhausted faces, and drenches clothes, we walked back inside, ready to wash our clothes and eat dinner.

We didn’t think we could do it. Honestly, there was a point in time that I didn’t think we would be able to finish what we started. That trampoline was stuck and it was heavier than what we probably could have managed on a typical day. But, we knew we needed the teamwork to work for us, persevering through the challenge, moving something that probably wouldn’t have moved if our urgency wasn’t pushing it along.

I think of the many challenges we face daily. Alone, overcoming these challenges are truly impossible. The “wind” will win every time. But, when tackled with a team, with the urgency and tenacity to pull through, even the toughest obstacles can be overcome together. Then, together, “the trampoline” will move through the mud, water, thorns, and branches, because we are determined to make it happen.

As an educator, we face challenges head on, always striving to do what it takes for each and every child. It may be messy along the way. There may be thorns to step through or branches to clear from the path, but as long as we keep the clear goal in mind, we will achieve it. This is not an easy job, but it is worth it. I am so blessed to have an amazing team, who each day tackles “the wind” with me, moving “the trampoline” so we can help our students become their very best.