Monday, October 20

Making the machine

Day one of work at the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot. The depot is the main distribution point for relief supplies from the United Methodist church to global and domestic disasters. During orientation today we heard that in 2013 the value of goods shipped was just over 7 million dollars. It included 369,286 health kits (which contain a hand towel, washcloth, bandaids, soap, fingernail clippers, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste); 124,010 school kits; 11,032 clean birthing kits; 5,248 cleaning buckets; 19,859 layette kits; 5,040 sewing kits; and 2,471 bedding kits.

It is a great example of what happens in connected mission - individuals in churches all across the country make kits using instructions found on the UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) website. Then the kits are gathered, often at the regional or state level. They are then shipped to Baldwin, Louisiana where they are verified and packed to be ready for distribution when the need arises anywhere in the world.

My morning began a little rough...I'm rooming with 7 other people. 2 of them snore. Really loud. So I put in my earplugs. At some point when folks were starting to get up, I pulled the covers over my head to block out the light. The next thing I know...Carole is poking me in the chest. I uncovered my head and said something like, "what?" to which she replied "breakfast." I looked at my phone and saw that I had four minutes to get to the dining hall. I made it in three. My hair was a wreck, I was wearing flip flops and my glasses...but I made it just before the bell rang. Whew. Not sure why it didn't occur to me that earplugs that would block out bears on my right and left would also block out the sound of my alarm. I'll need a new plan tomorrow morning.

What was the best part of working today? How easily everyone works together. I've worked in a lot of different environments - but this situation is different. I think that the difference is that everyone leaves their ego behind. They are flexible and fit in where the greatest need is, instead of where they want to be. I worked with two amazing guys in the packing station. We had all worked in that area before but this was the first time we had worked together. We came up with systems to keep the work flowing smoothly. Sure, things came up through the day that needed troubleshooting and whenever that happened - we just came up with solutions.

I observed that in other work areas - people sharing the work load, helping each other. Efficiency and accuracy were more important than volume and who was getting more done. It is a different kind of work environment than "normal."

Many years ago I was in a show called "Stop the World." I was part of the clown chorus. During that show the director (who was Kevin Bacon's first acting teacher...making me two degrees separated and that makes all of you three degrees separated from Kevin Bacon! But I digress...) wanted the clown chorus to represent a machine. He was actually kind of a lousy director...he pretty much worked with the principle actors and left us to figure out our blocking on our own. So the six of us went to work turning ourselves into a machine. It was six performers. With six giant egos. A piece of stage business that took 4-5 minutes of the show took nearly 2 hours to perfect.

I think watching the 30-40 people working in the depot today - merging into an efficient and beautiful machine was more wonderful than any work environment I've ever been a part of.

What great strides we could make in this world if we could all lose our egos and just focus on the end goal - improving the world one tiny bit at a time. As part of devotions tonight we sang "Pass it On" which starts with the lyric: It only takes a spark, to get a fire going. And soon all those around, can warm up to its glowing. Be a spark. You don't have to do any more than that...

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