The beach brigade and teamwork

Aug. 29, 2005
A hole in the sand provides an interesting view of how friends and strangers merge together for a cause.

"Mom, everything does not have to be a lesson," is a statement I often hear from Catherine, my nine-year-old daughter. Our summer family vacation at my in-laws house in Maine was no exception. The lesson had nothing to do with skin cancer or sunscreen (except truth be told, I was pretty darn tried of applying and reapplying sunscreen by the end of the week). It had to do with a hole and teamwork.

Any reader who has spent time on a beach with kids during low tide can relate to this scenario. You sit down in a beach chair, pull out the book of the month to ease back for a little relaxing reading when all of a sudden you hear a chorus of, "Can you help us dig a hole?"

You get up off the chair (sometimes harder than it looks) and begin to dig. With my children, Catherine and John, I am not allowed to just "dig" a hole haphazardly in the sand. I must follow a two-page architectural drawing that outlines the proposed sub-structure. These instructions include shape, circumference, and the wall of protection that will be used to keep back the impeding high tide. I, of course, usually begin to lose my patience after the sixth, "Ma, you're not doing it right." I then graciously admit that they are right, and that I would not want to wreck their plans so they better continue without me.

So they do. Now on this particular day, the hole took on a life of its own. It got bigger in depth and width, and included shell decorations, a mote, stairs, bench, and all the imagination of the four creative sources of the design (two of their friends were involved). Lunchtime came and went, and we happily paid the appointed "sand guard" (grandpa) with a peanut butter sandwich. During the children's lunch and subsequent absence from the beach, he bravely took on the duty of protecting the hole from neighboring children or beachcombers who could unintentionally fall into the hole and sprain their ankle.

After lunch, I found that the wind had shifted, figuratively and literally. In addition, the tide was coming in at a rapid pace. I proudly saw my kids and their friends no longer exclude the bordering kids, but include them. They introduced themselves to the new recruits, shared shovels, took turns digging, laughed, and played. As the waves fiercely approached, the sun-glistened beach brigade showed no signs of admitting defeat. The beach brigade worked tirelessly together for a common goal — preserving the hole.

Then in a joyous unified movement, they all started to demolish their day's work. It appeared to be a symbolic motion. They did not want their creation destroyed by the waves of the Atlantic. This newly formed group collectively decided the hole's fate. Within 48 seconds, the hole was gone.

After the hole was completely erased by the water, the beach crew slowly dispersed back to their towels and families. The only factor that remained was discussing the day's lesson with my children. It was a conversation about the importance and value of working together with friends and sometimes strangers. I continued with the merits of building relationships and an effective team to achieve a common goal.

Did Catherine and John appreciate my motherly insights? No, not really; they just wanted to go to the ice cream parlor. So we did.

I hope everyone had a memorable summer. Thanks for being a part of the team that makes the RDH eVillage a success!

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage