Edina has worked for us longer than anyone else here, but as she in now in her sixties (quite old for here) and was in poor health, we allowed her to quit and just stay home—but we continued to pay her as if she was working. It was our own little retirement program for her. She came to see us yesterday, looking great, and explained that she couldn’t just stay home anymore. She was missing something. She wanted to feel useful, to feel needed, to be a part of something bigger than herself. She wanted to work for two days a week again, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and she said it was important. She looked great; the time off had healed her, and she wasn’t asking to do full-time work (she works outdoors keeping all the plants, trees, and flowers looking good, as well as cleaning the guest cottages and keeping them ready for occupation), just two days a week, but she insisted she needed this. She was not happy not being a part of this mission. What could we say? She worked yesterday and will be back next Tuesday.
This need to be noticed, appreciated, and part of something bigger than yourself has been scientifically proven. Most of us don’t need a scientific explanation because we know we need to be useful, for what we do to be noticed and appreciated. Karen and I like to watch a show called “Undercover Boss” because while the bosses reward the good workers well at the end, almost every worker says that having their work appreciated by a boss was more than they wanted or needed. This was proven rather conclusively by a series of experiments in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s at the Hawthorne Electric Company (you can Google this) and came to be known as the “Hawthorne Effect.” Experts wanted to prove that if you increased the lighting in a plant, the workers would produce more product, so over quite a while they kept slowly increasing the lighting—and the workers worked harder and produced more. Then, to prove their hypothesis they reduced the lighting, expecting the production to decrease, but it didn’t. It increased. They got the workers together and asked them what was going on. It turned out the workers were working harder because people were watching them and caring about how much they worked. It was being noticed and appreciated that spurred them on. We are all like that, every one of us.
When I get down and depressed about how little we are doing here, it is almost always because we have no “Hawthorne Effect” in play. No one here notices or appears to care about what we do. Yet, Edina couldn’t just stay home without being a part of it. We just delivered five biosand filters to five pastors much farther out in the bush from another denomination. Just five, but that means clean, safe drinking water, no cholera, no dysentery, for over one hundred people for years to come. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot. Over the past two or three days, God, in His mysterious ways (mysterious to me, anyway) has sent me several signs that what I do here is important—to Him, to His children, and to my wife and son and myself. We don’t have any experts watching what we do or “Undercover Bosses” working with us and rewarding us for our work, but we have God watching, and He has told us that He should be enough. We’ve also had help from you—sending emails, “likes,” comments, prayers, packages, and in many other ways letting us know that we are not alone, unwatched, or unappreciated here. Okay, we are not building orphanages and hospitals and things you can see from space, but we are making a difference in the lives of a few needy, poor, hungry, orphaned, and sick human beings whom God has created and loves. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to find someone you know who has made a difference in your life or is making a difference in the lives of others and TELL them that you noticed. Change their life for the better. It’s something you have the power to do, and something Christ (not me) is really calling for you to do. Henry David Thoreau said that to improve the quality of someone else’s day is the highest of the arts. You have that power. Use it, today. Make a difference by noticing and appreciating what someone else has done for you, a bigger tip with a message at a fast-food place, a phone call, a text message, a post on Facebook, or if you’re up to it—a Hallmark Card. I pick out Hallmark Cards by reading them one by one until one makes me cry, then I buy that one. You can change someone’s world today and tell ‘em Christ made you do it. You will both be better people. Now that’s what I call a gift.