In a large city in Alabama in 1945, some of us "war widows" set up a canteen for officers in one of the city's hotels. One afternoon a General came in for coffee, music, and perhaps a game of bridge. He was a big man — tall, greying, and full of confidence. The younger officers seemed to gravitate to him, as if drawn by a magnet, for his strength was most compelling.
After a while they drifted off to dance and I got a chance to speak with him. He had a wonderfully direct way of looking at you, an easy sense of humor, and a contagious chuckle. We discussed war, with all its horrors, its rigid discipline, and so on, and I asked him how he had come through it all and still kept his humor and wits about him. Almost shyly he took out a well-worn slip of paper from his uniform pocket and handed it to me. "This," he said, "has pulled me through quite a few seemingly insurmountable problems." I read the little poem — almost a prayer — and then reread it. This huge man, leader of many men, lived in war and in peace by these simple words:
Now I could understand his clear, direct gaze, his confident bearing, and the magnetism the junior officers felt when he entered. I never saw the General again, but had I been fighting in a war I should have liked to have had him as my commanding officer.
(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 1999; copyright © 1999 Theosophical University Press)
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