Tinkering with Tools

By Noelle Herring

My first activity working with kids… you’d think I would be less nervous given that this is what I signed up for. But doing anything new or unfamiliar gives me an uneasy feeling. I’m so predisposed to my comfort zone. And if I’m not careful, I’ll retreat so far into it that opportunities start to pass me by. As difficult at times as it may be, I am always trying to welcome unexplored challenges into my life. Doing this allows me to take control of that pesky nervous feeling, instead of letting it dictate my actions.

Back to the children’s activity. My task was to assist a group of around 8 students ranging from 3rd to 5th grade with building an imagined idea out of random stuff. They came to my host site, Home ReSource, to learn what it means to reuse materials. Because we are a building materials reuse store, the “stuff” we provided for the kids was an assortment of do-dads, trinkets, and gadgets that would have otherwise ended up as waste in a landfill. To most adults it’s just a pile of junk, but to kids it’s a pile of endless creations.

I was nervous for a few reasons. Firstly, I had a very limited history with the use of power tools leading up to this point. And by limited history, I mean all my experience came from a crash course I was given a few minutes prior to the kids’ arrival. So to be honest I was slightly terrified of acquiring power-drill related injuries. Secondly as I mentioned earlier, when I’m thrust into new situations where I don’t know exactly what to expect, anxiousness ensues. Lastly and most prominently, I was worried I wouldn’t possess the creative problem-solving skills to be able to help these starry-eyed kids bring their ideas to reality. For someone like me, disappointment is the most dreaded sentiment of them all.

Fast forward to when the requests started pouring in, “I want to attach this here!” and “how do I get this to stick to this?” I would suggest a few different options, sometimes troubleshooting until we got the outcome we were looking for. Even if I made a mistake, either I or the kids immediately came up with a backup idea. I soon realized that there was no right or wrong way to any of this. There was no correct path nor a solidified destination.

After I let go of my worries, I had the most fun helping build such wacky sculptures. While the kids were learning how to use physical tools to rethink waste, I was learning how to use mental tools to overcome my insecurities. Not everything has to be calculated, not everything has to be so black and white, and not everything has to be comfortable. We gain so much by challenging the barriers of our comfort– by urging the walls to expand into uncharted territory. As I move forward and encounter the unfamiliar, I will remember: even if the screw in front of me doesn’t fit, there’s a perfectly sized bolt just waiting to be found.