The volunteers facing the fence formed a line about 25 feet long. The chest-high black iron line of defense around Cleveland’s Louis Agassiz school stretched about 800 feet. Despite a marked disadvantage in length, the United Way/Cleveland Browns-led crew approached the perimeter and began scraping away flaked paint and rust from every iron bar, brushing on primer and repainting the fence.
During the 2014 Hometown Huddle, a steady drizzle dampened sweatshirts and coats, but not spirits. While many worked to raise a Browns-themed wonder of a playground structure, others painted monkey bars or hauled wheelbarrows of stones to the playground site.
At the fence, some volunteers used steel brushes to prepare the iron; others used metal scrapers or sandpaper. One volunteer from the Cleveland Browns organization was using a tattered piece of purple sandpaper to remove the rust; she would work a spot to the metal, then fold the rough paper to a rare unused section and find the next area.
“I’m finding a corner,” she said, undaunted by the soggy and nearly exhausted remains of her sandpaper.
That “finding a corner” attitude – taking whatever modest resources are at hand to accomplish a task in the service of others – exemplified the day, as volunteers and workers used any and all tools they could to construct the first playground the school has seen in ten years. Volunteers who may never again visit the school nonetheless invested their time and energy as if they were going to use the facility every day.
Everywhere the eye could see, someone was “finding a corner,” whether it was men and women with shovels loading seeming tons of stone, athletes cooperating to lift a top with the coordination of a red zone drive or supporters carrying water bottles and directing people toward lunch.
The day started with an empty frame and ended with a complete new playground structure. In the hours between, it was the spirit of “finding a corner” that turned aspiration to reality. The structure will stand as an example of how even those with modest tools can help build and grow our community.