How many people does it take to dig a hole?

Submitted by Michelle on January 20, 2013 - 4:14pm
More than you ever plan on


We recently celebrated the opening of our new centre. 240 invitations were sent out! It took that many people to make the new centre a reality. Volunteers pitched in with every aspect of the negotiations and renovations. We aren't quite done- have a few sidewalks to build and some landscaping but it is time to celebrate what happens when a ton of people commit their time and talents to building something they believe in. There are so many stories to share from the journey of the last year and a half but this one is one of my favorites.

One guy pumped the water out of the crawl space, another, covered in mud, ran the tubes for wiring. Our team of volunteer electricians completed the wiring necesary in our new building so that we were ready for hydro to connect our meter on the outside of the building, but a ditch had to be dug first. It was decided that a few of the volunteers would start digging the ditch that night. We had one day before Hydro would be arriving. A couple of volunters took turns digging under the light of car headlights. The earth won! It was too solid to get very far. So one volunteer called the next morning to say he had rented a back hoe that would be arriving shortly. He advised that we should google "How to operate a back hoe!" 

That morning there were two of us at the center who took delivery of the back hoe. We asked the delivery man if he could give us a lesson in how to drive it. At this point we really didn't know who was going to do the digging but figured we might as well take this time to get some direction and my friend (founder of our organization) was really keen to do it! She felt that it wouldn't be any harder than playing space invaders! I am not making this up. She was convinced she could do it.

Luckily, I am always the person who raises insurance risk issues. Someone has to have a level head in community innitiatives! We tried to convince the delivery guy to take pity on us and help out but that didn't work. While the delivery man was giving us instructions one of our volunteers drove up to check in & see if we needed any help that day. We asked if he knew how to drive a back hoe. He didn't but he had a friend who might! So he made a call and within 20 minutes someone who lived nearby came to dig a hole for us. He had no immediate connection to our centre - just came out because a friend told him we needed help. He was concerned that the hole should be fenced in so borrowed some fencing from his church that they weren't using and came back to fence off the area. When he was done he asked what we were up to and then volunteered to come back and help with other aspects of the building.

It was only a hole but for me it was a lesson in faith, trust, and community.


I'm organizing a build fora barn on a community farm so I'm particularly interested in your project. Tell us more about what the centre is for, how you are funding the build, what is your design, etc...

Thanks for the funny story!


Sharing knowledge and skills

Michelle this is a beautiful story of how people can use their networks and friends to help share the load and share their skills.  I wonder how we can encourage more of this to happen.  I know there are websites that encourage skill sharing and time banking but it seems to me that this happens best outside of these structures.

I also wonder how this friend of a volunteer had the time to come help.  One thing I have noticed in my short time as a grown up, we pack our days full of stuff and do not give ourselves the time and energy to be able to help out and share our skill when the opportunity arrises.

I remember when I was yong, my dad telling me the story of how the old order mennonites lived by the principle of 75%.  They lived their lives at 75% so that if a crisis or need ever arose they had the time and energy to step up.

Is this volunteer now more connected with the centre?



I read this comment when you first wrote it and have been thinking about it ever since. I, like Nina, am inspired by adopting this 75% rule... though, easier said than done. I believe it could really shift our society to be more open to serving others- to view our time not just as our own, but to be shared to a certain extent.

Thanks for this idea!


I like it! I'm going to use it!

It's so true. If I'm too busy to be flexible and change plans... I can't join in something or help someone out.


Love it!

Hi Michelle,

Thanks so sharing such a fun story of when community came together. So neat how the job got done relying on the gifts and abilities of those within your community and how helping/serving together can bring us into deeper relationship with one another... so neat! So well captured!

What does your centre provide/ what is its purpose?

Thanks for sharing!