Monday, February 6, 2006 Observation
Like many of you undoubtedly, years ago I read Eldred Hubbard's essay "A Message to Garcia". It is a wonderful story about initiative, and trustworthiness and has impacted my thinking over the years. Eldred Hubbard wrote: "...When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia [leader of the Cuban insurgents against Spain] was somewhere in the mountain vastnesses of Cuba—no one knew where. No mail or telegraph could reach him. The President [William McKinley] must secure his co-operation, and quickly. What to do? Someone said to the President, "There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can." Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia....the fellow by name of Rowan took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia... The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?"
"By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing—"Carry a message to Garcia." (Eldred Hubbard)
I believe that Rowan's type of initiative, trustworthiness, and integrity, sadly, is not found in great numbers of people. I know that in the leadership positions I have held over the years I have always tried to surround myself with people that could "carry a message to Garcia." I have been blessed to find men and women that I could totally trust to use their initiative to accomplish something delegated to them better than I could ever have done it myself. Such individuals are truly priceless.
Over the past 16 years Jo Anne and I have learned a great deal about this quality in people and companies we have dealt with in trying to address and meet the special needs I have in my condition. We have a company that provides my ventilators and associated materials I need to keep me breathing. Jo Anne will call in an order for supplies we need and for some reason they are never delivered. It always takes three or four phone calls and then invariably they send the wrong supplies. Have any of you ever experienced something like this? It is obvious these people have never even heard of "Garcia"! Another company, by contrast, that provides us with the remainder of our medical supplies can be called on Monday and the correct order will be delivered on Tuesday. I have a doctor that if we put a call in to her she actually calls us back. So many times calls go unheeded or the "I will get back to you" never happens. Isn't it such a ray of sunshine in your life to find people who actually do what they say they are going to do without being pestered or prodded?
I believe I have been pondering this quality recently because of my Filipino caregiver, Rey. He is one of the most trustworthy people I have ever met. I have had the reoccurrence of a pressure sore and have been in bed for three days and will probably have to spend several more days down to get this thing on the way to being healed. When I am down it actually complicates and increases Rey's workload. He never complains however, and always comes when he says he is going to come. I never have to wonder if he is going to do show up or not -- he is always there and usually before the appointed hour. He is absolutely meticulous with my care and is always double and triple checking the ventilator and all of its connections before leaving me alone. We pay Rey for his work but could never pay him enough for what he is worth. To come and do for me what he does day in and day out is a wonderful blessing in all our lives. He truly knows how to carry the message to "Garcia"!
How does one develop the kind of integrity and trustworthiness of a Rowan or a Rey? I suspect it is an inborn quality in many, but also a quality that can be expanded in all of us. To simply do what we say we are going to do is a true barometer of our character. Jesus told the following parable toward the end of his ministry: "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first...." [Matthew 21:28-31] The openness, honesty, and integrity of the first son is very refreshing. Too often we are prone to make promises we have no intention of keeping to look good in the eyes of others or to say things we think others want to hear just to keep them happy. How much better it is to say, "No I will not do it" and then on reflection, actually go and do that thing we ought to have done. Huxley said, "Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it is to be done, whether you like it or not."
Many years ago I was at a party on a Friday evening at the home of Dr. Wayne Triplett, a member of our stake. He was an avid bike rider and was in great physical shape -- he looked like he had been chiseled out of granite. He was telling me about some of the bike trips he had taken and I foolishly, trying to be nice and make polite conversation, told him how fun it sounded and that I wished I could do something like that. He asked me what I was doing the next morning at 6 a.m. and not being able to think of anything I mumbled "Nothing". He told me he had an extra bike in his garage and that he would like to take me on a ride. Well, I had put my foot in my mouth and so the next morning, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I followed Wayne Triplett from his home in Tustin all the way to Laguna Beach and back. Pedaling up Laguna Canyon I thought I would die but every time he would look back at me I would manage to give him a sickly grin. I couldn't sit down for several days after that experience but had learned a valuable lesson. Never say anything you don't really mean and plan on doing!
Well, how fortunate we are to know people who can deliver a message to Garcia and how we should strive to deliver that same message ourselves.