As I drive to work each morning, I often zero in on the multiple tasks before me. Arriving early, I walk quickly into the building, up the stairs, and into my office to get a good start on my to do list before others arrive. 

With that kind of focus, I know I miss noticing things like the sunrise, flowers blooming, grass mown, flowerbeds weeded, floors buffed, trash cans emptied, disinfectant applied, glass doors cleaned, and carpets vacuumed.

This gave me pause to think about all the things that occur without my notice. While living in Florida, there was a prominent business man, who on very special occasions, would give a wooden spoon to a recipient. He would share the story about how his grandparents would entertain large groups of people with a great abundance of food. 

His grandmother would often not be seen or heard, but her delicious food would be enjoyed by all. He began a tradition of giving a wooden spoon as an award to an individual who made a significant difference in helping their organization be successful while working behind the scenes, just like his grandmother.

There are many at our university that are wooden-spoon workers, employees who work hard, but are rarely seen. There are those that work in plant and custodial services who maintain our heating and cooling systems, provide sealant for our buildings, change lighting when needed, regularly replace the flags, repaint, mow the grass, and pick up trash. 

There are our IT department technicians who ensure our information is secure and who did a phenomenal job helping our faculty seamlessly navigate to online classes during this COVID-19 crisis. I think of our cafeteria workers who prepare the food for hundreds of students and staff. I often take what these employees do for granted; they are vital for maintaining our campus and ensuring that the university operates effectively. 

In today’s time, I have also come to realize there are extraordinary wooden-spoon workers in our community. We have healthcare personnel who are keeping the hospitals and clinics open and providing excellent care for people while the rest of us are practicing physical distancing. 

There are individuals who have worked daily through the COVID-19 crisis to ensure the following areas continue to function: food industry, communications and IT, energy, financial, utilities, government, industry, etc. The people who work in these sectors have left their homes and their families to provide essential services for you and me. 

I think of the men and women who are currently serving in the U.S. military and those who paid the ultimate price. We often don’t see them as they are behind the scenes protecting our freedoms. 

All of these individuals deserve our appreciation now more than ever for all they do and have done to care for us and make us comfortable and help us continue to live in the land of the free. They all deserve the Wooden Spoon Award.

The words of John F. Kennedy’s final Thanksgiving proclamation inspire me to be more thankful, “Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers - for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” 

I invite you to join me in being more aware of those that work behind the scenes and to provide them a virtual Wooden Spoon Award by expressing our gratitude for their important work.


Dr. Ken Shaw is president of Southwestern Adventist University.

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