Team. Like the words “opera” or “broccoli”, say it in a room of Global workers and you will be met with a spectrum of reactions. Not unlike the word “brother” in my house right now. As I sit down to write this, my 15-year old son is throwing plastic coasters off the balcony at the Student Council group his older sister has over to work on a project. Not evoking great emotions from his sister at the moment (I’m not actually sure those coasters have ever been used to protect my table from anything).
Can I be honest for a minute? I have a mixed bag of emotions at that word myself (team, not brother). No one can hurt your heart quite like those who know you best, and my team sure got to know all about me. As bright shiny newbies in our country I thought I had this team thing all figured out. In my mind, we were going to be each other’s best friends and family. We would fulfill needs in each other’s lives that we didn’t even know existed yet. Side by side we would live the most amazing lives and in 30 years we would sit across from each other at Applebee’s (yes, for some reason in my dreams it was always Applebees) and laugh as we exaggerated the great things that had happened. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? That dreamy future reality lasted about 48 hours into my career on the field. (I know… you aren’t as shocked about that as I was.)
Here is the reality that I now know. Sometimes team is a call from America that says, “We don’t think we are coming back”. And sometimes it is “We’re watching your kids so you can get away for your anniversary”. Sometimes it is “I feel unnoticed and unused” and sometimes it is “I found Dr Pepper in the market and I bought you three!”.
Someone I’m pretty sure we all try to be like thought team was so important that he spent the last 3 years of his life investing in a team of 12. Through the Word He left us with instructions like “Sharpen each other” (Proverbs 27:17). “Think of each other better than you think of yourselves” (Phil 2:3-4). And He left encouragement that He will patiently help us to live at peace with each other so that He will be glorified! (Romans 15:5-6) .
There was one season that was particularly hard. Loving each other was a choice and in the midst of my selfishness I am sure I was hard to love. I was working outside (with a child who knows who he is but will not be named) when a miscalculated swing of a garden hoe collided with my forehead. While I was trying to convince myself I was ok, my team packed for my family, went to the border and stamped my family’s passports out, and had us on the road to the nearest hospital (a few hours away) within minutes. That is team. Knowing we will unintentionally hurt each other. Knowing that loving each other will be a choice most days. Knowing we will still be there for each other in the end.
It’s all fine and dandy for me to sit on this side of overseas team and tell you stories. But can I tell you as I look back from this side what helped?
- Learn their Enneagram number, color, Myers Briggs, or whatever tool makes you happy. Knowing how our teammates feel loved and what motivates them helps us know better how to communicate with them. I am not a board game player and about the only reason you will find me strategizing over one is because I really care about whomever is on the other side of that board.
- Pray for them. When their decisions directly affect you it can make it hard to pray for the desires of their hearts. Those desires could take them in a different direction or mean that your family can’t go on furlough at the time you hoped. You know, a funny thing happens when you pray… your heart changes and you are better able to rejoice with them (even if it causes you to mourn just a little).
- Have fun together. Every now and then, put that to-do list down and do something that makes you laugh with each other, at each other, maybe both.
So tell me. What’s in your team survival first aid kit? How do you take care of the delicate, tough, awful, amazing thing we call team?
My husband recently took a road trip with one of our old teammates. He came back and said, “You know, he really is one of my best friends.” I did in fact know, and I still think I want to sit at Applebees with our team and exaggerate a few things. Our stories may look different but they are ours. And in case you are wondering… opera, broccoli, and team all get a thumbs up from me.
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