This post is for Terry Zinn who was a member of the USO tour to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland that was sponsored by Oklahoma City University many years ago. Terry recently asked if I’d ever done a post about that remarkable experience. I’ve only written one. Its title is “The Thule Lesson” and it is re-posted below.
Terry and Mike Floyd were my unofficial assistants on that long ago adventure. Terry served as our stage manager and performed in the two productions that we presented at our various stops. Mike played piano for the shows. Lara Teeter who later starred on Broadway in “On Your Toes” was one of the actors.
Our time on Greenland is the part of the trip I remember most clearly. We spent time above the Arctic Circle at Thule, and also time at Sondrestrom. A trip down river to an Eskimo camp where the women were preparing fish for drying lives in my mind as one of the highlights. Another memory is of the sun circling around the horizon rather than arching overhead as it does further south.
So, Terry, here is the single post I’ve written about our life changing trip. If I can find my photos, maybe I’ll do another. My daughter tells me Iceland, another stop on our tour, is trending currently.
THE THULE LESSON posted July, 2013
This story is set in Thule, Greenland.
I had the good fortune a while back to be a sponsor to a group of university drama students who did a USO tour for our servicemen. Our trip took us to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and finally to Thule, Greenland.
At that time, the United States military and the Danish government were involved in an agreement where the military did their thing and Danish contractors handled the service jobs on the bases at both Thule and Sondrestrom in Greenland. This included laundry, cleaning, maintenance and food services.
One Dane remains in my memory so clearly that I can see his face even today. He was a proud man probably in his late twenties, early thirties, a man with bursting energy and leashed emotions.
I can’t remember his name. I’m not even sure I ever knew it. I remember him because of the lesson he unknowingly taught me.
He worked in the cafeteria where the soldiers chowed down and where bleary eyed young thespians also got their meals. Each morning he was there behind the stainless steel counter, scrambling eggs, grilling toast, loading plates and whirling to hand the steaming food to the next customer.
The thing that amazed me and stays with me still was this. He wasn’t defined by this mediocre and somewhat menial job. The job was defined and elevated by his performance of it. I have never seen anyone since who approached any job with such pride. The man’s station was spotless, his food was prepared perfectly. His delivery of the food was done with elegance and grace.
Pride in himself for doing the job well fairly bristled off of him. It was as if he said to himself, “All right, this is a piddling job, but I don’t do anything halfway. I will make this task a special one.”
Life doesn’t always give us what we want. Promotions we want don’t happen. Companies downsize leaving us jobless. Life-changing accidents happen with devastating repercussions. Spouses or significant others leave us.
We don’t control external circumstances, no matter how much we wish we did. We do, however, have total control over how we’ll react to those circumstances.
Perhaps remembering the nameless Dane from Greenland and his pride in a job well done will help you turn a difficult scenario into one to be proud of.
A NOTE ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE.
Inuit tupilaqs are magic figures, originally created out of perishable materials. They were believed to have magic powers to carry out revenge for their makers. Later, tupilaqs were created for the European and American visitors to Greenland out of ivory or caribou horn and are simply representations of the earlier figures. Fortunately, these later tupilaqs don’t carry a lethal dose of magic like their forebears. The fine fellow in the photo is a souvenir from my brief sojourn above the Arctic Circle.