OPINION

Small steps, or ‘How to move a rubber tree plant’

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

Building Strong Communities

—by Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director of Keep Iowa Beautiful

Many of the readers of this item will recall the song “High Hopes” sung by Frank Sinatra and written by J. Van Heusen, S. Cahn. The lyrics are about the need to have a vision and goal and to stick with it:

Next time you’re found

With your chin on the ground

There’s a lot to be learned

So look around

Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant

Anyone knows an ant, can’t

Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes

He’s got high hopes

He’s got high apple pie

In the sky hopes

So any time you’re gettin’ low

‘Stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step - followed by several other steps. Regardless of how many steps the trip is – it begins with “one step”. We don’t know what may happen on the journey so we tend to take that trip one step at a time. Like the ant – how do you move the rubber tree plant? How do you start the journey?

An example is the Hometown Pride program. The cost of bringing a community coach to an area is $80,000 annually. A county and the communities in the county look at that cost and many dismiss the project right away because of the price tag. The fact is, that the cost can be taken in small steps – Keep Iowa Beautiful provides $60,000 of the cost leaving the local share at $20,000. That figure still concerns people and they may not proceed because of the cost. Now when that cost is broken down between the county rural areas and the communities into a per capita cost it may be $2 per resident. In a community of 250 people that allocation or share of the cost is $500 (a small step compared to the original $80,000)– now the program and cost becomes manageable and one they can attain and afford. The county and community foundations make the task easier. Now the program can be initiated bringing them leadership concepts and a program that helps implement their plans while bringing them closer to assuring their future.

Even though the journey begins with one step, like the ant, we need to set goals i.e. “high hopes” – what we want to get done, where we want to go and generally how we will get the job done or how we will get there. Without a goal how will you know if you ever get there or if you are even going in the right direction. Frequently things happen that affect the actual journey even if you have a clear goal and have begun the journey – a friend becomes ill, we might have a flat tire, we might miss the plane connection, the bridge is being repaired and there is a detour, etc. Those are items we normally can’t predict. The journey still begins with one step and in case of the elephant we tackle it one bite at a time.

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs. - Vance Havner

Many times when we develop a project or have an idea – the end goal (price tag in this case) tends to overwhelm us as the example illustrates. As a result, we often back away from the project or idea and take a simpler and easier project that is less visionary, but, that we know and is predictable and relatively easy to obtain. We leave behind an idea or goal that may have become highly successful.

My suggestion for achieving these bigger “dreams” or “visions” is to have “high hopes”. Take the vision and break it down into smaller steps. If you take one of the smaller steps and are successful you can move on to the next step - one step at a time. Soon you will have achieved your vision.

Set your hopes high and begin with one step – you can move the rubber tree plant!