I present you an image. One tick of the clock. One single moment in time.
And I present you the millions upon millions of people that were required to bring this one single moment into being.
The Immediate Surroundings
Springtime. A Kick It Up dance competition. Kick It Up is a big operation, but this is a small competition so conservatively (I’ll keep all numbers conservative)the competition took about a dozen people to organize and run. It was done on behalf of a half-dozen dance schools representing over two hundred and fifty dancers and teachers.
This particular number, the moment in time we’re talking about, is a group number. About a dozen ballet dancers are on stage. Taught not only ballet but other dance styles by two or three or four teachers at their dance school, who themselves were taught by more than a dozen teachers and danced in countless competitions organized by scores of people to get where they are now. The dancers dance a dance that has been danced for five hundred years, originating in the Italian Renaissance.
They’re dancing to a number inspired by Schindler’s List, a movie that more than one thousand people worked on and itself was inspired by a historical event that itself counts millions among its participants. The music they’re dancing to, part of the movie’s score, was composed by a man who likely counts people like Mozart and Wagner among his influences.
These dancers, aged twelve to sixteen, go to dance school every week, taken there by their parents or possibly those of other dancers. The school is in a building that was built by a construction company who employed to the tune of perhaps a hundred men and women to put the walls up and then more to wire it for electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and plumbing. The dancers and their families each live in houses or apartments that required their own construction crews and contractors to make them livable.
These parents are here today, along with the not-currently-on-stage dancers, other family members, and perhaps friends of the dancers as part of an audience totaling five hundred or more that spans generations. Among them are countless occupations from engineers to bankers to teachers with odds being in favour of at least one airline pilot who flies twelve-hundred-passenger jets across international borders.
The Things We Use
Most of them drove here in cars from any number of manufacturers. Each car was purchased at a dealership, was sold by a salesperson, after being transported to the dealership by a truck driver (possibly even having to cross the ocean on a ship), after being assembled in a factory by potentially hundred of hands, with many of the components built in other factories still, and the overall designs created and tested and prototyped by an entirely different group of people.
And easily eighty percent of the people here at this dance competition right now have some type of electronic device on them. Cell phones, smart phones, tablets, digital cameras, and eReaders. These electronic devices were sold to their current owners each by, very probably, a different sales person. Different people still, transported these devices to the stores they were sold at. First, the devices had to be assembled at one of several dozen factories by dozens of workers.
And as a short sidebar – consider the person in seat B14 who bought his iPhone at a Telus store from a nice woman in Cornwall, and consider the person in seat N21 who has never met the man in B14 and who bought her iPhone at the new Rideau Center Apple Store and consider that both of these iPhones may well have been assembled by the same group of employees and may even both have the same quality control stamp hidden on the inside of the case – proving just how connected we all are without even knowing it.
The Stuff to Make the Stuff
All of the components that went into these iPhones (and every one of the electronic devices) — the processors, the transistors, the metal casing, the batteries – weren’t built at the factory that assembled them. Each component was built at a different factory by different employees and transported to the Apple Factory by different people still. Plus, taking the metal casing as just one example of many components, it didn’t start its journey there. The metal first needed to be mined and processed.
Yes, even simply gathering the materials to make the base components to make the parts to assemble the products that we hold in the palms of our hands requires its own equipment – which needs to be assembled from hundreds of different components supplied by dozens of companies who themselves need to purchase materials to do their jobs.
Not to mention all those construction materials for the dance school, and the theatre, and the houses where the dancers live. Materials collected and shipped and processed and shipped until they’re in the form we recognize.
Countless People, Countless Stories
Millions upon millions of people not just historically but who are alive today and working to bring us every moment of our lives. All of them – every single one of them – have their own teachers, mentors, employers, employees, friends, doctors, and most importantly their own stories. Their own hopes. Their own dreams. Their own fears. Their own failures.
You’ve probably never looked at the world that way before, and the beauty of it is that you really don’t have to. Everything, and everybody, just chugs along contentedly behind the scenes of our lives, day in and day out.
But once in a while it’s worth taking just a minute to think about how incredibly complex things really are. Taking just one minute out of your life to bask in how absolutely incredible it is that all these things are able to come together.
And while you can’t thank every one of the cast of millions responsible for bringing you your Starbucks latte, you can certainly go out of your way to smile at your barrista and ask them sincerely how their day is going.
When was the last time you complimented a stranger or thought about what their story might be? Join the discussion in the comments below.