In a celebrity-driven age like ours it’s easy to applaud those who work on the top deck—the public faces of business, government, medicine, entertainment—while overlooking those who work in the galleys and engine rooms that keep the ship running. Are you a back office, behind-the-scenes kind of person? Well, your talents matter and your work is indispensable. That was my message on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought segment recently.
Everyone On the Team is Needed
Photo: Mercy Ships Australia – Facebook
I have a friend named Mick who works on a ship called the Africa Mercy, run by the wonderful charity Mercy Ships. It’s a converted rail ferry that operates as a floating hospital, providing free healthcare to the poorest of the poor in developing countries. Every day hundreds queue up to be treated by its surgeons and therapists. The ship spends months in each port, healing thousands of tumours, cataracts and club feet before it leaves.
When TV crews board the Africa Mercy they naturally point their cameras on the ship’s medical staff. The work of these amazing volunteers is miraculous: fixing a little boy’s cleft palate, removing a giant goitre from a woman’s neck, removing shame, restoring dignity. Sometimes a journalist will wander below deck to interview other crew members. But few take pictures of the work Mick does.
Mick and his wife Tammy left good jobs to bring their young family on board the ship. Mick has an MBA, he was a chief engineer in the Navy, and dropped two levels of seniority to join. He admits he was surprised when he first heard where he’d been assigned to work on the ship—in its sewage plant.
With over 600 people on board the Africa Mercy at any time, up to 40,000 litres of waste is produced each day. Managing this toxic material is serious business. Without Mick carefully tending its pipes and pumps, the whole life-giving operation would shut down.
Nobody Achieves Alone
Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash
In a celebrity-driven age like ours it’s easy to applaud those on the top deck—the public faces of business, government, medicine, entertainment—and overlook those working in the galleys and engine rooms: the cooks, cleaners, accountants, assistants, techs, producers, and sewage system engineers.
Saint Paul wouldn’t let anyone overlook lower-deck people. He took Christians in Corinth to task for celebrating those with miraculous abilities—like the ability to heal—while playing down less spectacular talents. No, he said, every gift is important; everyone is needed on the team. In fact, the less prominent the role, the more important it is.
Remove just one cog and a watch won’t tick. Remove someone like Mick from the Africa Mercy and cleft palates won’t get fixed. (And you know what? Mick loves his job.) Those of us who have public-facing roles should remember this—no one achieves alone, so be quick to affirm your team. And those of us on the lower decks can lift our heads high—our roles too are indispensable.
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