One of my favorite plays in basketball is the assist, which describes what happens when one player passes the ball to another just before that player scores. If the shot-maker is like a parent, then the assist-maker is like a grandparent, without whom the shot would never have come to pass (pun intended).
John Stockton, who played nineteen seasons in the NBA for the Utah Jazz, holds the all-time record for assists, with 15,806! Jason Kidd is second place all-time, but is 3,700 assists behind Stockton. Third and fourth place are nearly five-thousand assists back! In other words, Stockton’s record is likely to stand for the foreseeable future.
Assists are crucial in basketball because well-timed, well-placed passes make the job of scoring so much easier, creating higher percentage shots and energizing fellow players. It is customary for an NBA player who has just scored an easy basket following a perfect pass to nod and point in the direction of the assist-maker as he heads upcourt.
In a world of glory-hogs, hot-doggers, and super-stars, I fear that the shrewd passer and savvy assist-maker is a greatly under-appreciated commodity. This is true in sports like hockey, soccer, volleyball, and cycling. In football, the linemen who lay down the blocks are easy to forget while the quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, receive the lion’s share of the adulation.
Why do I say all this? In order to point us to the value of unseen helpers, under-appreciated co-workers, and behind-the-scenes servants. Without the assist, the basket never gets scored. Without the set, the spike never gets hit. Without the block, the quarterback gets stuffed. How many examples of the assist can you think of in your workplace, in your family system, and in our congregation?
If you’re in the position of “scorer” in your line of work, how often do you stop to genuinely appreciate those whose work supports yours and improves your ability to perform with excellence? How often do you “look upcourt” and point and nod in appreciation? Who are the hidden helpers in your life who would appreciate a word of appreciation from you? Please tell them this week!
If you’re in the position of “assist-maker,” know this: overall point production on your “team” would suffer without your skills and dedication. You may not hear the “roar of the crowd” very often, but your contribution is invaluable and much needed. Furthermore, God is pleased with and honored through your faithful work. God sees the widow’s mite, the hidden prayer, and the unseen act of service. You have Jesus’ word that the God who sees in secret will reward you.
May we all continue to hone our assist-making skills, whether at work, home, or church. And may we genuinely show our appreciation to all whose assists enable and bless our own work.