Published in the Courier Mail on 13 July 06
One red paperclip. 14 trades. One amazing story! In what must be one of the best feel good stories of recent days, Kyle MacDonald, of Quebec Canada, did the improbable by effectively trading one red paperclip for a house. Yep – a house. It’s two storeys, recently renovated, and situated at 503 Main Street, Kipling Saskatchewan. (The town is also throwing in a key to the city!) He did it in only 14 trades and in one year, officially taking possession of the house on 12 July 2006.
Kyle had been renting in Quebec but decided he wanted to own a house. He didn’t have enough money for a house, but he did have one red paperclip. Kyle placed in his faith in the concept of relative value – that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. So, with a big dream, and a whole lot of determination, he embarked on his quest. And he achieved what few thought was possible.
Stories like this are water to the soul. When we’re constantly reminded of the problems in this world and the dark and violent side of human nature, stories such as this shine forth and captivate us. Kyle’s blog had over 3,800,000 hits, as people from around the world heard about the guy who was trading a red paperclip for a house. We want to be a part of great stories. We want to celebrate a win. We want to remind ourselves that wonderful things can happen.
Winston Churchill once said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” And some of us can see a house in a paperclip.
It takes courage to face the challenges life brings us, and to still dare to dream that we can make a difference. It’s easier to simply throw our hands up and admit defeat, or to point the finger of blame at our parents, our children, the government, or society. And yet we only hurt ourselves by doing so. If we never unleash the passion and determination that enriches life we end up all the poorer for it.
The attitude we approach life with literally defines our days. For even though we may go through seasons of difficulties, those with a positive attitude will always end up stronger and more resilient. Those with a can-do approach refuse to be beaten down, won’t give up looking for a solution, and will persevere until their dreams are fulfilled.
Could the reason the red paperclip story has captivated so many people is that we resonate with daring greatly? We may have grown weary but we still want to live significant lives. It’s here that our celebrated western individualism has tripped us up. Thinking we have to go it alone, and just be strong, we have forgotten one vital component.
Kyle MacDonald could never have got that house without people who were willing to be part of his journey and cheer him on. Like Kyle, each of us needs people who can be a source of strength and encouragement. Similarly, we have the privilege of being that for others. Life’s too short to be mean-spirited. Those who encourage others often find that they themselves are bolstered. A few kind words or a simple act of generosity can be all someone needs to spur them on.
We can live passionately and greatly. We need courage to dream big, determination to stay positive, and people who will encourage us. And every so often, we just need to remember how one guy from Canada turned a red paperclip into a house.