The Wrong Tool for the Job

July 20, 2015 - Mexico

Jordan, Emrie and I woke up early Sunday morning to help clean up the Amextra site. They’re getting ready for a summer camp. Members of the community came to sweep, cut grass, and polish the place up. There were about 20 volunteers armed with rakes, hoes, machetes, and shovels.

Emrie and I were given the task of clearing thousands of rocks from the dirt soccer field. We were given a shovel, a broom, and a rake. We needed to clear all the rocks, and then dump them in the street using a single 5 gallon bucket. I quickly became frustrated scratching the dirt with my shovel like some aberration of an ostrich, scratching for seed.

As I begrudged my task, Emrie called me out: “We get to be in solidarity with the poor by using the wrong tools.” In that moment, my posture changed from bitter to humble. I reflected on the privilege I have in the States. I have access to many, many tools. My garage is filled from floor to roof with every variation of hardware. What I don’t have, I buy.

People in poverty don’t have the right tools all the time. Or they don’t have adequate tools. This means that while they put in more hours and labor than the individual with the right tools, they achieve less and earn less. Even with hard work and resourcefulness, the poor are thwarted by their inadequate tools.

This morning, I counted it a gift to work alongside the poor using the wrong tools. I am humbled, yet made richer. And I wonder what kind of work and by what tools do we define success?


Written by Derek