From KBM, Inc.
Priorities – the Right ones, in the proper order
Another day, and another non-stop report on an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A terrible tragedy, without doubt. Yet, it seems to me that everyone’s missing something.
At a very different time in my life, I worked in the oil field. Oh, it wasn’t 5,000 feet over the ocean bottom. It was in states like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and various other places in these United States.
It was hard work; very hard. It was also dirty, and at times, dangerous. When I started out, I was a Roustabout. A Roustabout is a person who works at the Producer’s discretion. If they want you to climb the derrick and stand up there all day in cold or hot weather, you do it. If it’s 120 degrees, you do it. If it’s snowing or sleeting, or raining cats and dogs, you do it. And you always do it without complaining. The key to advancement when you are a Roustabout, is to accept every assignment so quickly that you’re almost on the job before your boss gets it out of his mouth. Believe me; they notice. And, my experience was that they appreciate it and move you up the chain because they know they can count on you to do whatever is necessary, without having to look over your shoulder to make sure it gets done. Later, when I was in management, I looked for those special guys.
I remember all of this very well. But, there is another memory more cogent than that; the day three men died on the drilling location I was working on. I remember their faces as though it happened one minute ago. But, I never knew anything more than their faces. It’s one of the saddest things I can admit.
As I sit here in my office today with a storm raging outside, I’m thinking of some people who were cut from that same pattern. They were on an oil derrick in the Gulf of Mexico about two months ago when an explosion took place. About a dozen of them never made it off the platform alive. In fact, we have no evidence of some of the bodies. I don’t know anything about them. I know about the CEO of BP. I know the relative amount of oil that has gushed into the Gulf, and that there are lots of birds and other critters dead or dying. But, I don’t know anything about the men who lost their lives in the explosion. Really! Nothing!
I also don’t know anything about the wives, parents, children, brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents, or anyone else who is grieving perpetually since that awful day. To me, that’s the greatest tragedy in all this. While we ought to care about the amount of oil lost, the environmental impact, and the number of fish and birds lost, our most important cost is in humanity. As a Christian, I wonder if the workers were Christians. I also wonder what plans they left behind. Yes, the greatest tragedy is the loss of lives, and the emptiness of those left behind; little boys and girls without Daddy. Old men and women without their sons. And, young women without the one person in all the world they planned to grow old with. Not possible now.
But, what about you and me? There are people around us who are just like the men who died on that oil derrick. We go about our “everyday” without even a thought about them. We ask how they’re doing without really wanting to know – it’s just conversation, a greeting that means no more than “good morning.” We say “How ya doin’?” almost automatically. I think it’s safe to say that some of them are going through the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death, and I wonder if they feel free to share their troubles with us. Our tendency is to open up to the ones that we know care about us. Are they opening up to you, or me? Have I given them reason to believe that I’d like to know when they need a friend? A better question; have I given them reason to believe that I don’t want to know?
It’s a kind of joke around here. Our son, Jon knows every truck driver. He knows every worker that comes in this building more than once. They just seem to know that he is interested, that he cares – about them. He does – and it shows. It’s a good lesson for me, to be sure. At this writing, he’s 800 miles away, doing my job, and I’m in facility doing his job. And, I’m taking time with everyone who comes into this facility – caring on purpose.
Take a minute and think. The people that have been given to your circle of influence need to know that you notice them, because you care about them. As for me, I’ve committed to being interested on purpose. Because the fact is, nothing in my life is more important than the people around me.
Caring on purpose? Now, that’s a wisdom strategy!