One of my strongest positive memories of the events around 9/11 happened the day after. I and many hundreds of others descended on our closest blood donation center. (Remember, at that time we still thought there would be lots of patients who’d need it.) The poor staff were completely over-run and had no concept of how to deal with such a huge crowd. People were willing to wait, but there was a lot of confusion, inefficiency, and short tempers as folks were confronted with the many steps and requirements.
A small group of Equity actors and stage managers took over and organized the crowd into staging areas, assigned time slots, and gave out numbers. If there is one thing ESMs know how to do, it’s deal with large numbers of willing but confused people!
Within minutes, they had donors moving through the paperwork and screening procedures in a calm, orderly fashion, so the staff could focus on their task. They even got an accurate headcount of how many donors could be served in the day and got communication down to the end of the line, so those turned away would know why, and when to come back.
The other thing actors and stage managers know how to do, is work long days and stay cheerful. They did. I never got their names, but I will always remember the spirit of people looking at a crisis and not saying, “there’s nothing I can do, I’m only ____.” Instead they saw a need and said, “Hey, I know how to do that.”
Looking back, it reminds me of the hymn:
Let none hear you idly saying,
“There is nothing I can do,”
While the multitudes are dying
And the master calls for you.
Take the task he gives you gladly;
Let his work your pleasure be.
Answer quickly when he calls you,
“Here am I. Send me, send me!”
—Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling
By: Daniel March, Hymn # 318 from Lutheran Worship