Late last year, Corporate Communications held our annual departmental strategic planning meeting at a Monastery a couple miles north of Schuyler. Our day-long gathering was in the Saint Benedict Center, Conference Room C. On the wall outside the next room over — Conference Room B — a small sign had the words “Midwest Maintenance” printed on it.
At noon, I stood in line and waited for lunch. I used the time to say hello to a group of friendly folks from Conference Room B. Perhaps it was the locale, but I had a momentary, crazy vision of my being one of the Monastery’s holy Monks, spreading the Word.
Saint Mark and his Sermon Outside the Cafeteria.
Gathered around me, the Midwest Maintenance people were attentive and polite. “I’m with public power.” I answered to the question of what did I do? “I am a true believer in public power and the many good things it has done over the years for generation after generation of Nebraskans,” I said.
I then regaled them for a few minutes on the benefits of public power. They asked about renewable energy. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of wind power. Then came a question that surprised me. A young woman with a lovely Mary Magdalene smile, short, black hair and dark brown eyes asked me: “Are you important?”
I was stumped. Oh, I knew what she meant: Where did I “rank” at NPPD, what was my job level? Was I in management? But (maybe it was the Monastic surroundings, maybe I was over-hungry) whatever the reason, my mind darted among several levels of meaning — both concrete and ephemeral.
Am I important?
After some quick mental debate, I decided to go with humor and self-deprecation. “No,” I admitted ruefully, “I’m pretty much nobody, about as low on the Totem Pole as you can get.” I made a flat-handed back-and-forth motion level to the floor illustrating just how very low. “Way down there.” We shared a laugh.
That was when a woman from the Center announced the buffet lunch was ready. My sermon was finished.
But as I sat in the dining area pushing cheesy turkey and noodle casserole (more like spaghetti, really) around on my plate, I came to realize I’d answered young Mary’s question all wrong. Like a white beam from heaven, a shining revelation illuminated my brain, and in that divine light, I thought I glimpsed at least a tiny fraction of God’s ultimate design: Not only am I, but EVERYONE is important.
My task at NPPD – oversimplified, perhaps, but no less true – is TO TELL OUR STORY. To inform and remind people of public power’s great success and of how my NPPD teammates work every day toward providing affordable, reliable electric power.
Part of what I do is to help us begin and then nurture relationships with other Nebraskans, to help them to see that NPPD is more than a big, blue corporate “N.”
NPPD is people, — the often quoted “Nebraskans serving Nebraskans.” We care. We agonize over what customers pay for electricity. We work hard to make sure we can be depended upon to deliver reliable service. We protect the environment. We wholeheartedly embrace the future. We are true to our word.
Ours is a great story.
And it dawned on me, there in the Benedict Center as I fished lima beans from a bowl of otherwise tasty vegetable beef soup (I really don’t like lima beans), that being “important” isn’t based on a person’s job title, a big salary or the size of one’s office; it’s whether or not he or she can feel their contribution is meaningful. To be part of something worthwhile that is greater than yourself.
If that young lady from Midwest Maintenance were to ask me again, “Are you important?” I would answer, “You bet I am. The job WE do at NPPD is vital to Nebraska, and I’m proud to be a part of that team.”