A few years ago, the Extreme Makeover guys came to my town and built a new house for a deserving family, and, watching it on TV, the thing that struck me was how much it meant, not to the mom and dad and kids, but to the workers who built the house. A few of them were interviewed on the show, expressing with deep emotion how great it felt to pitch in and help their neighbors, which was touching. But it raised the question, well, what was stopping them from pitching in to help their neighbors before ABC's big bus came to town? Why did this seem to be such a unique, new experience for them?
I was reminded of this by a story in our AVweb news about the folks at Build A Plane. They are sponsoring a project in a little Alaska town, where some high-school kids are restoring a beat-up old Stinson. The whole community has stepped up to encourage these kids, donating time and money and free airplane rides, offering internships and ground-school courses, raising money and providing lots of moral support. I'm sure they all find it immensely rewarding. But it raised the question again, why was all this good will there, just lying dormant, till the Build A Plane project came along to ignite it?
My theory is that people are willing and eager to give, but they need to know that their efforts will produce results. Programs like Build A Plane provide a structure and a track record that promises some likelihood of a positive return on the time and money invested. So, does it take a tall and lanky stranger to ride into town and stir things up, to provoke people to act, to inspire your local aviators to give something back to their community? Or does it just take you?