1. The basic, underlying framework or features of a system or organization.
2. The fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and schools.
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Rising from a restful nights sleep I placed my feet on a chilly carpet I realized that the heater had quit sometime in the night. I checked the thermostat 60°. I turned it up. No familiar ignition sound between the pilot and burner could be heard.
“What’s going on?” I wondered as I hurried to the furnace to check the familiar glow flickering in the darkness. I had had the furnace inspected only a month before and all was well. Disassembling the protective panel, I peered at a flameless pilot.
“Guess I’ll call Public Service to find out if they have had other reports.” I picked up the phone to call for help but there was no dial tone. “What is wrong?” I began to worry. I switched on the TV … no response, the light switch … no glow. Cell service was dead.
Disconnected from my sources of information, I open the front door only to immediately be hit in the face with a frigid winter blast. I closed the door almost as quickly to don my wraps before once again venturing out for the paper. None had been delivered.
Undaunted but totally confused by this unfolding state of affairs, I caught the ear of a neighbor also scavenging for the news. They awoke to be greeted by identical circumstances. No land line, no cell service, no TV or WiFi reception. It was as if we were all cut off form the outside world.
One neighbor waited at the bus stop for over an hour and a half attempting to catch transportation to work only to return home freezingly frustrated and concerned. Others reported going for gas to discover no attendants, no mail carriers, no police or fire or EMTs at their usual stations. School buses were not running. Teachers were not at their posts. Others were beginning to gather in driveways and street corners contributing to a growing general sense of panic.
It was as though all the services that we had grown to rely on for supporting our basic functions of daily life were paralyzed. All the workers that ran and maintained the institutions and personnel systems of our city’s infrastructure had, on this day, all decided not to come to work. Oh, those who had cars, motorcycles, bicycles or contacts could eventually find a way to get there, but every other service that gave their effort meaning and purpose was for this day paralyzed. Personal supplies could be temporarily relied upon by the frugal, but eventually even those meager stores would exhaust. We appeared to be a body without blood, no circulation to provide the necessary life force that made it all function.
Like Scrooge awaking from his Christmas nightmare, I thankfully found myself at home in my easy chair this unseasonably warm January morning. I was glad to open my eyes to a world that worked. I fumbled for my cell phone only to discover that I needed to dress quickly go to work. I drive a city bus.
The transit system serves as a major artery in our city enabling others to get to their jobs and return home. Were it not for the City Bus, many would not get to work on time or would have astronomical transportation expense in providing the connection for themselves. For a economical Day Pass a passenger can ride multiple locations in the Grand Valley, getting to their jobs and connecting appointments to take care of personal business. The price improves if one buys a three month or annual pass.
My passengers work at many types of jobs without which our city would actually come to a standstill. They serve what I have heard referred to as our city’s infrastructure. Its restaurants, hotels, nursing homes and hospitals, its many entry level positions that literally enable the city to function.
“Guess that’s what I do,” I thought. “I serve other servants of our city’s infrastructure.” A good feeling broke across my body. I could feel the blood flowing in my veins nourishing my own personal infrastructure with its pulse of life.
Sometimes it is good to see the big picture, to recognize ones place as a part of the whole. Such experiences enliven, nourish and inspire in other moments when energy is low and all seems ridiculously meaningless.
I am reminded of George and Rebecca Gibbs telling about at letter one Jane Crofut received from her minister in Our Town, by American playwrights Thornton Wilder.
I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America.
What’s funny about that?
But listen, it’s not finished; the United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hempisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.
We are all a part of a larger drama that is unfolding as we speak. Bricks and mortar, steel and polyurethane are lifeless building material. Organizational and systemic management systems are but fractals on a screen without people to serve. Let us never forget those without whom our efforts are meaningless. That’s the big picture.