The Job Belongs to the Person Who Sees It

peg-figuresThere is a story you’ve heard before about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody and a job that was recognized but left undone since everybody thought someone else would do it.  That story is actually a shortened version of a poem by Charles Osgood, the former host of CBS News Sunday Morning, who often conveyed wisdom through a poem:

responsibilityA Poem About Responsibility

There was a most important job that needed to be done,
And no reason not to do it, there was absolutely none.
But in vital matters such as this, the thing you have to ask
Is who exactly will it be who’ll carry out the task?

Anybody could have told you that everybody knew
That this was something somebody surely had to do.
Nobody was unwilling; anybody had the ability.
But nobody believed that it was their responsibility.

It seemed to be a job that anybody could have done,
If anybody thought he was supposed to be the one.
But since everybody recognised that anybody could,
Everybody took for granted that somebody would.

But nobody told anybody that we are aware of,
That he would be in charge of seeing it was taken care of.
And nobody took it on himself to actually follow through,
And do what everybody thought that somebody would do.

When what everybody needed did not get done at all,
Everybody complained that somebody dropped the ball.
Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame,
And everybody looked around for somebody to blame.

Somebody ought to have done the job
And Everybody should have,
But in the end Nobody did
What Anybody could have.

Charles Osgood

My mother loved Osgood’s wise folksy wisdom.  This story was one of her favorites.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I helped lead a team of social workers to assist first responders at the World Trade Center Ground Zero Site in the early days after the disaster. I have written about my experience in an earlier post. (See:  In the Ashes of My Brothers.)

jobsFor this post, however, I want to focus on the motto, almost a mantra, I developed as a result of my experience there:  “The job belongs to the person who sees it.”

It is, perhaps, a shorter form of Osgood’s wisdom or perhaps a corollary.

You see, I learned in New York that some serious jobs require attention that haven’t necessarily been “assigned” to us, and might not even be what we set out to do. I also discovered that when you do see something that needs to be done, it is way too easy to say, “Somebody needs to do something about ‘____’ (that –  fill in the blank)” or “someone else will fix that.”  In all likelihood, those statements precede nothing being done and a problem going unaddressed.

lightbulbAn explanation: At the time I went to New York, I was the most experienced clinical person on the team I helped organize and train. I thought my clinical experience was what I would draw on while I was there. But, though I did use my clinical skills, and an important job to done was in helping the first responders cope with the loss and horror they were experiencing, I found myself seeing other things as well that needed my attention and organizational skills. It was like having two sets of ideas, and seeing needs others didn’t.

visionFirst, I came upon Leia, a woman living  near Ground Zero, who had set up a relief station on a fallen girder. She desperately wanted to remain to “help the guys,”(guys in this case included women). However, as security tightened, she had no sponsoring organization to register her to continue her work. She was afraid to leave to get some sleep because once outside the perimeter, she would not be able to re-enter. She needed help, and the First Responders needed the nearby access to hydration and supplies.

I convinced our team to take over the Relief Station Leia had created, and I arranged for her to meet Major Reals, be able to rest at our shelter, and get clearance to become a Salvation Army sponsored volunteer to return.

This took time and phone calls, pulling me away from individual outreach, but the job seemed to need doing. I had met Leia. I saw the good she was doing. I saw she couldn’t keep it up and my mantra began to drum in my ears. I would not be the anybody who failed to do the job because “the job belonged to the person who sees it.”

volunteerIn those early chaotic days, there were so many things that needed to be done. To meet the need for responders working on debris burning between 500 and 1,500 degrees we needed resources from new boots to gloves that were being degraded and consumed. I found those resources, developing a list of people in New York who would bring them to the perimeter. Then, I would get firefighters or police to go with me to pick them up. Later those needs would be met in a better organized less “ad hoc” way. But at the time, the job was there, the need was there, so less time for counseling, more time on the phone and picking up supplies, but the same words in my ears, “The job belongs to the person who sees it.” Somebody needed to do it.

In times like 9/11 priorities are easily and clearly seen, but my mantra has continued. I vowed in New York that if I ever again saw something that really needed doing I would do it, or at least I would get the ball rolling and then find someone who could take it over.  If I saw a need, I decided I owned it, one way or another until someone else did.

puzzle-questionI have had many people tell me they don’t have a calling in life. I usually ask if they have ever felt a need, looked around and seen one: poor children who need tutoring, a homeless man who needs a meal, a letter to the editor that should be written to address a community problem, lonely people in your church or neighborhood who could use a call or a get well or birthday card, senior center programs or hospitals who need volunteers, some immigrants who need furniture, a job, clothing or someone to teach them English, or volunteering to stuff letters for charity appeals, or organize donors, use picture-taking skills, or collect clothes or prom dresses for those who can’t afford them…turn your head and look around. It will be like looking at a puzzle and seeing the missing piece – you! Because the world is filled with some need that only you can see….

And the job belongs to the person who sees it.



About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
This entry was posted in Inklings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Job Belongs to the Person Who Sees It

  1. Clive says:

    That’s a really positive approach, Jo. Plenty there for us to take on board and add to our own lives. Still not sure if I have a calling though 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for caring Joan. The world soo needs people like you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris Barber says:

    Joanne, your mantra is inspiring, and anyone who at first might be an uncertain somebody could take heart—and action! Your solution simplifies those somethings that can seem too complicated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thanks, Chris. One of the benefits of being in a situation like 9/11 is how it crystalizes your thought, highlights what is important, and how simple important things can be. Little things can be big things to somebody…often we underrate what is important to another, or underrate ourselves. But I think there is something in everyone that sees needs and if we give ourselves permission to respond we can make a difference. All of us. We are all just anybodies…9/ll showed me lots of ordinary heroes, and we can all become somebodies to someone if we let ourselves be. Jo


  4. robjodiefilogomo says:

    Great message Joanne!
    Sometimes just showing up is half the battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Osyth says:

    Funnily enough I have just had a conversation with another blogger about helping refugees in France. I said we all just need to take action and stop thinking about what our part is or what the consequences are ‘just do it’ as my boss used to say to me long before Nike pinched the words for their strapline! I loved this piece … your sentiments should be embraced by all. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely. This reminds me of when I worked as a ward clerk in a busy hospital ward. One little old lady had stayed on the ward for a whole year, because we found out that there were 2 social workers in the hospital, and each one thought the other one was looking after her! She had become institutionalised, poor thing, and was eventually re-settled in a care home.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s