A Little Project

“I’ve got a little project for you.”

I can’t begin to count how many times my dad said those words to me.

I was usually up for whatever he had planned. He made “a little project” sound like a fun thing, an adventure.

Not everything he had planned was actually fun, but there was always a component of fun in it, even if it was just in my mind.

It’s about attitude.

When I was very little, he’d let me tag along sometimes when he was outside fixing a piece of farm machinery. My hands fit in places his didn’t, so sometimes, I was actually helpful in threading a bolt or picking up a dropped tool. Other times, he didn’t have an actual job for me. Maybe it was just his way of getting me out of the house, so mom could have a few minutes to get some of her own work done. Whatever the reason, he’d find a little project for me and make it sound exciting. He later admitted that, more than once, he’d throw a bunch of miscellaneous nails, screws, nuts, and bolts together into an old coffee can and have me sort them. I remember thinking I was doing such an important job, because he wouldn’t have to look through a mess to find what he needed. I’d sort everything into cups for him. (Until the next time he through them all together again.)

I helped him thaw frozen water lines, give medicine to hogs, and feed the cattle. As I grew up, I began to realize I really wasn’t much help to him at all. But I never felt that way.

When I was around ten years old, we cleared trees from several hills in order to plant on them. The bulldozers did the big work, but there was a lot of debris left behind. We had mandatory family outings of walking every inch of those hills to pick up rocks, roots, and a few treasures. I remember it being hard, exhausting work, but I also thought it was an adventure. I imagined all the things that had happened on those hills before me, who had stepped on the same ground, including what kinds of animals. I marveled at the size of some of the root systems and tree trunks. It was probably one of the bigger “little projects” my dad had for the entire family, and not all of us would agree, but I thought it was an adventure.

He made it sound fun. And I guess I was gullible enough to believe him.

Sometimes I think we try too hard to avoid the things that don’t seem to be enjoyable to us. We’d rather do the things that let us be comfortable, the things we feel we’re good at, the things that we determine more than what’s given to us. But so what if we don’t completely “get it”? If we aren’t the best at something or aren’t as much help as we’d like to be? There’s still value in us getting involved and working alongside others.

And there’s always potential for adventure.

It’s about attitude.

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