Thirty-five years ago this week, one of my favorite television shows aired its final episode. It was called M.A.S.H. and centered on the men and women who served at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. The show ran for 11 seasons, with the first episode airing on September 17, 1072 and the finale on February 28, 1983. It won numerous awards and is one of the highest-rated shows in television history. That final episode became the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in history at the time.
What made M.A.S.H. unique was its ability to balance humor and drama. The antics of the ensemble cast were funny and entertaining to watch, but the seriousness of war was never lost. The show had a soul to it. Watching it, you felt like these were real people experiencing real emotions. Their interactions, both the lighthearted and the intense, allowed you to feel what they felt in the moment.
Many of the stories evolved from the encounters of actual surgeons and nurses involved in the Korean conflict. Characters in the show resembled actual people who had been a part of these stories. As a result, the actors became invested in accurately conveying the ups and downs of life in this small community of people who had been thrust together by fate.
I fear that sometimes we forget that we’re involved in the stories of real people too. We go through the motions – just dialing it in – or focus on our own selfish goals for the day. We lose sight of the fact that the interactions we have with customers, coworkers, and others have very real implications.
Each time we assist a customer, it’s an opportunity to positively impact their life. It might be in a profound way, through a sale or solving a problem; but often it’s in small ways – sharing a smile or a kind word. We have the same opportunity when it comes to our daily interactions with other team members. The way we approach these touch points can have significant ripple effects on their lives, and our own.
I hope you view your work as more than just a job. What a lonely, sad existence that is – to spend your days waiting for them to end. Work should be rewarding; not just financially, but socially, emotionally, and psychologically as well. We should all seek to contribute to something larger than just the immediate menial task. We should all actively contribute to the stories of others.
That’s what I loved about M.A.S.H. It was obvious that the actors and writers of this simple sitcom didn’t just see their work as a means to the next paycheck. They were devoted to the process, their individual characters, and to each other. And because they were devoted, the viewers were too.
I recently read a series of interviews where those involved in the show reflected on what M.A.S.H. had meant to them. Even 35 years after the ended, the impact of this shared experience was profound. Everyone had been touched.
Loretta Switt, who played Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, recalled the cast’s last time together. It was the night the finale aired, and the group decided to go out for a farewell dinner. She noted that the streets were unusually empty. Later, they found out his was because so many people were inside, watching M.A.S.H. No one, it seemed, wanted to miss out on the story.