Three stories slashed deep into my heart last year. One was about Arthur Booth. Booth’s middle school classmate, Judge Glazer, had the unpleasant duty of sentencing him for burglary. According to the Judge, Booth was “the nicest kid in middle school. He was the best kid in middle school.”
The second story was about Alfred Postell, the Harvard Law man and classmate of the current US Chief Justice, John G. Roberts. Postell, somehow, became homeless and was standing trial for sleeping beside an office building in downtown DC.
Both men have something in common. No, not their colour (even though that may be relevant in another discussion). Not even that they were standing trial for poverty-related crimes. The 2 men started life as young men who’re determined to break out of poverty. Postell, for instance, had to work night and day to keep his mother and see himself through his 3 degrees – one in Accounting, another Economics and the last in Law. What happened? What went wrong?
The third story was about Daniel Cabrera, the Filipino boy who received scholarship after photograph of him studying on the street went viral. That clearly is another determined boy, probably, like Booth and Postell a couple of decades ago. What will become of little Cabrera? No one knows.
The renowned US General, George S. Patton, who led the Third US Army against the Nazis, has some insight to offer. In December, 1944, Patton summoned the Chaplain of the Third US Army. That was after over 2 long months of torrential rains. The rains fought against him and, clearly, in favour of the poorly-equipped and extensively-exhausted Nazi forces leading up to the battle of Bulge. A commentator put it this way: “the rains were doing what the Nazis could not do to him.” The General inquired from the Chaplain if there’s been prayer in the camp. The Priest’s answer, unfortunately, disclosed no confidence. Then, Patton exhaled these hallowed words:
“Chaplain, I am a strong believer in Prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that’s working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure… some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part in everything. That’s where prayer comes in.”
Yes, Patton may not be one of the religious figures in history. He probably never even took his religious obligations seriously. However, his sterling military successes preceded him. He knew the essence of meticulous planning and precise execution. But he also believed in the unknown and in prayer.
In-between planning and working, what do you do, friend?