Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. – Proverbs 3:13-14 (NIV)
Back in the 1950s a wealthy ship owner received word that one of his ships was stalled in a New York harbor. For some unknown reason, the ship captain and mechanical crew could not get the engine to start.
Ship engineers from across New York and New England were brought to the ship to rectify the problem, but despite their extensive bank of knowledge, the engine wouldn’t start and the ship remained stalled.
One exasperated engineer finally went to the the ship owner and said, “Just about everything I know about ships I learned from a Negro engineer,” he said. “He’s retired now, living down in Georgetown, SC. We haven’t been able to figure out this engine problem, but this guy might be able to help.”
The ship owner agreed and sent for the engineer. Upon boarding the ship, he was ushered down to the engine room. After looking around a few minutes, he opened his toolbox and pulled out a mallet. He then reached behind a large pipe and adroitly tapped on a smaller pipe three times.
After tapping, the crew was directed to start the engine … and voila! The engine started. The appreciative ship owner said to the engineer, “Thank you. Please send me your bill for this service.”
Upon receipt of an invoice for $3,000, the ship builder was taken aback. “He was only onboard the vessel for about thirty minutes,” he exclaimed. “Ask him to send me an itemized invoice.”
The ship builder then received this: For tapping on pipe…$3. For knowing where to tap…$2,997.
Knowledge of details has never been enough to run the engines of our society. Beyond all our logistical expertise we must understand what particular social pipelines need our attention. Only wisdom can tell us where to tap.
Lord, speak to our collective wisdom, and let it break through the bonds of our inertia. Amen.