Sunday, April 13, 2014

No Ordinary Pencils

It was only a polite passing conversation, but it stuck with me. Before moving from Florida we ran into a graduate from the flight school at Target and got to talking. He was flying for a company that supports the offshore oil and gas industry. Everyday he transported engineers back and forth to oil rigs off the California coast. As we caught up he remarked, "So you guys are still going to do the flying for charity thing? That's great that there are people like you in the world."

This conversation has happened so many times, especially over the last year. Thank God there are people like you and Ben in the world. It pains me every time.

It pains me because the work we do is not more valuable than your work.

"Hey, I'm thankful for offshore pilots!" I responded. "I am so thankful for what you do. How could we fly for charity without you supporting the oil and gas industry? We rely on the products you have a part in bringing to the market."

He nodded, "Yes! You are right. I'm so glad you see it like that. We all need each other. Each of our jobs is important." And they are. They really really are.

No Ordinary Pencils
Many years ago I read Leonard E. Read's famous economic essay I, Pencil. In the essay an ordinary lead pencil begins, "I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove."

The pencil goes on to describe the millions of people who played a part in it's creation. Everyone from the Brazilian coffee farmers who produced the coffee drunk by loggers who cut the trees to the legions of people involved in shipping the materials needed for manufacturing and mining for graphite.

Like the pencil, fighting poverty, both physical and spiritual, is much more than those on the front line. It's even more than the organisation's office workers and generous donors. 

If you tell me that you are thankful for people like me I will respond in all honesty that I am thankful for people like you.

Your work is valuable. Do it with confidence and integrity. You are changing the world.

"I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth." - Leonard E. Read 



  1. Hey Daughter,

    I Pencil is one of my favorite essays. I "made" your little brother Dean read it recently. I hope he got as much out of it as you did.

    I like your interpretation. Work is sacred and a gift from God. It is a gift that was given to man before the fall. No matter what you do, it is valuable and should never be demeaned.

    Love, Dad