April 16, 2001

Organizations build atop layers of success, failure

Josh Renaud

Children love building things. Giant block towers, space armadas built out of legos, domino houses.

For one reason or another, God put in us a desire to create. When I was a kid, I was into Legos, and I did like to build space armadas—different starships, land rovers, starbases. Then my brother and I would enact epic space battles. Inevitably, all the good guys' ships and bases would get destroyed. Then we'd spend time rebuilding them, and the good guys would decimate the bad guys. And that would be that.

This constant destruction and rebuilding proved to be a vicious cycle. Over years, pieces would get lost, instruction manuals would disappear, and gradually the ships began changing because we couldn't rebuild them the way they were originally made.

On my trip this winter to Israel, many of the older cities were that way, especially Jerusalem. Houses today in Jerusalem sit atop the the remains of many other houses built long ago. This is mostly because of war. Jerusalem would be sacked and burned, and then people would return and rebuild atop the remnants.

One side effect of this is that everywhere you go in the Old City, you're seeing history. If you don't see it immediately, then you're probably standing on it. Amir Tadmor, a former government official, explained to us how Hezekiah's Wall was found by Israelis when they were rebuilding the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. There are references to Hezekiah's Wall in the Old Testament of the Bible. It was rather amazing to see.

After last week's SGA meeting, it struck me that organizations are much like my Lego creations and the old cities of the Middle East. SGA, of course, is rebuilding after a horrendous year last year. This year they've been largely successful.

My own organization has been on a "building boom" the past five years or so. Each year seems to bring more success than the year before. Sure we make mistakes along the way, but by and large, we're putting together something grand here atop 34 years of failures, triumphs, and lore.

I guess it's been a while since we've been sacked and burned—actually, four years to be precise. That's when somebody tried to burn down our old house. Hopefully, it will be quite a while before it happens again.

But there are little things that can happen to hurt an organization, and those are the things, groups like ours and the SGA always have to guard against. Things like a leader who sets a bad example or makes a fool of himself. Or a group that becomes complacent instead of challenging itself.

Hard times will come every now and then, that is certain. The tough part is paving over the ruins to keep reaching for the sky.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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