Monday, April 11, 2011

Heap Big Smoke but No Fire

Several years ago I had a stomach ulcer that exploded. The doctors called it Mount St. Helens. A surgeon by the name of Dr. Nakono leaned over me and whispered in my ear, "Jack, if I don't operate right now you will die." I am not very smart but I got her message loud and clear and whispered in return, "Do it!" Dr. Nakono did it! There could have been many disastrous complications that had been mentioned to my family, but none of them materialized. I will always believe it was because Dr. Nakono was so well-trained, knew what she was doing, and simply did it, coupled with the intervention of Heavenly Father on my behalf that my life was saved. Don't you just love people who know how to do things and then they just do them without a lot of fuss or fanfare?

Jo Anne has been interacting with medical supply companies on my behalf ever since I was injured 21 years ago. For the most part they have done pretty well by us, but we have learned that all medical supply companies are not created equal. The company that supplies us with many of the things we need is just the best. Jo Anne can call in an order on Monday let's say, and the next day UPS will deliver it to our home with the exact things we ordered. On the other hand, the company that services our ventilator and all the equipment I need to keep my life support system functioning the way it should, is absolutely and irrevocably dysfunctional! Jo Anne can call in an order and it will never come. She calls back and they make excuses and say they will send it right out which they do but it is never the order we requested. They will send half of it or twice as much of it or often not even what we ordered. It is a source of great frustration for both of us. The only thing they never forget is to send is the bill, which is never accurate – always overcharged. And frequently we get a call from a collection agency asking us if we would like to settle our bill by giving them our credit card number. Well, if you know Jo Anne you can imagine what her response might be to these wonderful people who sound like they are in India or on the North Pole.

Many years ago I remember watching with my mother on TV the Arthur Godfrey show each day at noon. We only had three channels we could receive at our home in East Ely, Nevada. On Squaw Peak just outside of town there was a receiver of sorts that would pick up the signal from the major stations in Salt Lake City and then reflect them to our home. We were only 250 miles from Salt Lake, but 350 from Las Vegas and about the same from Reno. I believe the Arthur Godfrey show was one of my mom's favorite shows on TV. He was a big man with red hair and freckles who loved to sing while playing his ukulele. As a young man I always remember, and still do to this day, the favorite song he used to sing – "Heap Big Smoke but No Fire." It went like this: "Heap big smoke but no fire, heap big smoke but no fire. Him talk a lot but him not so hot. Heap big smoke but no fire!"

A favorite story I read many years ago that is still influencing me is entitled "A message to Garcia." It was written by Eldred Hubbard . It is a wonderful story about initiative, trustworthiness and simply "doing it!" 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 vastness 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! An aid to the President said to him, "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 the 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 was a prime example of one who was "Heap Big Fire with Little Smoke!" His 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." Frequently these men and women have not been great public speakers but they know how to carry the 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.

To do what we say we are going well to do is surely a priceless character trait. The Savior felt strongly about going and doing, he himself having volunteered in the Pre-mortal life to save mankind by basically saying, "I will go and do it, and the glory be thine." He did it!
Obedient and faithful Nephi when asked to go back to Jerusalem to secure the brass plates from Laban simply said, "… I will go and do what the Lord hath commanded …" [1 Nephi 3:5]

We can learn so much from the Savior, the man Rowan who delivered the "message to Garcia." Nephi, and a host of others. None of these were "Heap big smoke and no fire!" To say what we mean, and mean what we say and then to do it is one of the great character traits we can develop during this trial period we call mortality.

President Kimball's favorite saying I believe consisted of only two words, "DO IT!" For years on my desk were those two words that looked like they were chiseled in stone.. Actually the entire object was made out of some very lightweight synthetic material that resembled stone. However, the message was never synthetic or was the man who lived by those two words! As I looked at each day I was inspired to always try to simply "DO IT!" Not a bad way to try to live our lives.


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