The Sidewalk Story

Anyone who has sat in any of my workshops in the last five years has heard this. I have used it to open workshops, encouraging folks to interpret it and how they see it applying to Youth Voice.
One day late in his life an eccentric and famous designer took a contract with a major university in the middle of New York City to redesign their sidewalks. The university’s construction committee wanted a modern design that wasn’t like their old stodgy layout. In taking the contract the designer told the committee he needed to do things his way, and they agreed. They only needed sidewalks by the next school year. It was April.
So the designer ripped out the old sidewalks. But rather than hire laymen and put down frames and everything you’d usually do for sidewalks, the designer threw down grass seed and walked away. He covered all the old trenches and wasn’t seen on campus again for months. In the meantime a field of grass covered everything. 
Well, the committee got its druthers up because they didn’t have sidewalks, but tried waiting. In early August they couldn’t wait any longer, and the committee chair called Bucky. “Where are our sidewalks?” The designer explained that he needed two more weeks because it was supposed to rain soon – that summer was particularly dry. Nobody knew what he meant, but they waited patiently.
The storms came, and as folks went about class they trod across campus and into the halls, dragging mud and plying their own ways. After a few weeks the designer walked the committee chair around campus, following the paths students made on their ways through campus. They followed new paths everywhere as they zipped directly between buildings and wove around interesting places. Students didn’t follow any of the 90 degree angles of old sidewalks, and they generally didn’t move parallel or perpendicular to each other in any orderly fashion. 
The designer walked the committee chair back to a conference room, and the chair was perplexed, saying, “I didn’t see any sidewalks there.” The designer explained that the trails that were widest and deepest were the ones where he would lay sidewalks. 
So how does that story relate to Youth Voice? Share your thoughts below!
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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