“Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake’s plane . . . was shot down . . . over the sea of Japan. It spun in. . . . There were no survivors.”
Those words, together with their particular intonations, have stayed in my memory for decades.
There’s something about the actual words, yes, but also about the emotion generated by the characters in the well-loved comedy-drama M*A*S*H. The countenances of the other actors and actresses, even though enshrouded by surgical masks, were genuinely expressive — to the point of bringing me to tears each of the half-dozen times I’ve watched this episode through the years. The circle of trustful camaraderie created by the characters in this series was remarkable.
Can a real-world work environment generate such loyalty, such feeling?
For those of you who think I’ve lost my connection with reality (or haven’t yet found it): since I’m already dealing with a TV show here, I’ll pile another one on. The short run of the series Sports Night, which I didn’t know about until more than a decade after it was live, did a lot to inspire me concerning the possibilities in a positive, productive, trusting workplace.
No matter who messed up, acted ridiculous, made a bad judgment call, was testy — no matter what happened, really! — he or she was safe the next day. Coworkers were assumed to be valid, working parts of a team, giftedness/talent was recognized, and motives were not impugned. Associates were observed caringly — particularly so if they were having bad days — but no one was scrutinized to the point of causing paralysis. It was all okay. They were all involved in the same endeavor for the same purpose, and they supported one another, no matter what happened or who messed up. They seemed to conceive of themselves as inside a circle — which can symbolize endlessness, e.g., the wedding ring. For better or worse, the circle of activity in the Sports Night series was lasting: through thick and thin, through times of plenty and times of collective fear, they trusted each other and worked together. It was as though they assumed they would always be working together.
Can a real-world work environment foster such a sense of koinonia (partnership in a cause or task) as was depicted in Sports Night? Can a work environment engender psychological safety and security? (I’m currently thankful for an environment that really does feel like a “trusting partnership” most of the time.)
And . . . can church be just this kind of place?