Take a bag of potato chips and think about how many people were involved in the making of this treat that you now have in front of you.
You might list farmers, pickers, truckers, processors, and grocery stores. Then dig further. What kinds of functions/jobs on the farm were required for you to have this bag of chips? You might add: owner of the farm, seed purchasers, mechanics who keeps the equipment running, field workers, people who build the boxes or shipping containers, and others. The processing plant will have computer engineers, housekeepers to keep the plant clean, chemists who develop the recipes, human resources people who hire the workers, and others. Even before that, universities will have professors and students who explore ways to produce better potatoes as well as those who train all the chemists, agriculturists, marketers, managers, and accountants. There will be company owners and administrators, graphic artists designing the bag, and advertisers convincing us that this bag of chips is better than another. There will be as many as one hundred people or more involved in this one bag of chips. Except for the store stockers and grocery store cashiers, all of these people are invisible to us.
We often do not think about the large number of people who allow us to enjoy a bag of potato chips, not to mention our lives. We depend on many folks who are invisible to us in order to have the quality of life we enjoy. We are interconnected and yet forgetful about everyone who makes it possible for us to enjoy our lives.
We take for granted that our garbage will be picked up on schedule; our yard limbs, leaves, and clippings will disappear from where we piled them on the street; and the dead animals will be collected from our roads. We ignore the people who clean our offices, churches, and civic buildings until something is not done. We forget about the people who hang the lovely lights in the trees downtown, who wipe the bottoms of people in medical care facilities, and who serve our food at lovely eateries. We slight those who take care of preschoolers even though their pay is not commensurate with the responsibility entrusted to them. We are blind to the vast numbers of people who help us live the lives we take for granted.
In order to write this article, I needed a computer designed by others, a technician who keeps my computer working properly, software designers who know how to make what is in my head come out properly in this machine. I require HVAC maintenance people to keep the temperature comfortable in my office, medical staff to help keep my body healthy for my brain and fingers to work, teachers and editors who taught me how to write, people who prepare nutritious meals using safe food for me, and a host of others who help my life function for me. I need clean water, reasonable gasoline costs, well-maintained transportation, and a host of other conditions that are regulated by elected and appointed officials.
We are all connected. Some of the discourse in Washington these days makes it obvious to the rest of us that we truly are inter-related even when our elected officials seem to forget that. We need each other.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Let’s remember some of those invisible people who are so important to our lives. We need them. They need us. Together we can appreciate the gifts and talents of each other to make our community the kind of place we want to be. This way we all can thrive and realize the “inter-related structure of reality.”