Howard RittenhouseA few years ago, I read what one critic called “an unreliable history of the war” (WWII).  Why would I waste my time, you ask?  Well, my curious friend, I’ll tell you.  It was the fourth volume of Spike Milligan’s memoirs.  Spike was an English gunner during the war and later went on to fame as a comic actor and radio personality (he makes a brief appearance in Monty Python’s Life of Brian during the famous ‘shoe scene.’).  He often lampooned persons of privilege, influence, and prestige (generals, politicians, other actors).

And as I was reading his often hilarious recollections of the war, I came across this (he himself is quoting from the Army newspaper of the day, the Union Jack):

General: Leaps tall buildings with a single bound.  More powerful than a steam engine, faster than a speeding bullet.  Gives policy to GOD.

Colonel: Leaps short buildings with a single bound.  More powerful than a shunting engine.  Is just as fast as a speeding bullet.  Walks on water (if the sea is calm).  Talks with GOD.

Lt.-Colonel: Leaps short buildings with a running start in favourable winds.  Is almost as powerful as a speeding bullet.  Walks on water in indoor swimming pools.  Talks with GOD if special request is approved.

Major: Barely clears a Nissen hut.  Loses tug-of-war with a steam engine.  Can fire a speeding bullet and swims well.  Is occasionally addressed by GOD.

Captain: Makes high marks when trying to leap tall buildings.  Is run over by trains.  Can sometimes handle a gun without inflicting self-injury.  Dog paddles, talks to animals.

Lieutenant: Runs into tall buildings.  Recognizes trains two out of three times.  Is not issued with ammunition.  Can stay afloat if properly instructed in the use of a lifejacket.  Talks to walls.

2nd Lieutenant: Falls over doorsteps while trying to enter buildings.  Says, “Look at Choo Choo.”  Is NEVER issued with a gun or ammunition.  Plays in mud puddles.  Mumbles to himself.

Sgt.-Major: Lifts tall buildings and walks under them.  Kicks steam-engines off the track.  Catches speeding bullets in his teeth and eats them.  Freezes water with a single glance … HE IS GOD!

I thought this was hilarious!  Laugh?!  I laughed so hard I had an aneurysm.  So as soon as I was released from the hospital (where did the three weeks go?  And have you ever tried actually to eat hospital ‘food’?  Not a recommended course of action), I determined that I had to share this British side-splitter with you.

Why bother (other than giving myself people to visit in hospital – like I said, stay away from the rice pudding and don’t even smell the tuna surprise … it’s your intestines that will have the surprise)?  Anyway, other than sharing a laugh, what’s my point?  In a word, influence.  It may seem that a CWO has more influence than anyone (even a general! Gasp!), and it may seem as though the barely sentient 2Lt has little to none, but that’s perception.  I don’t mean to bring the position, awesome responsibility, and power of any CWO into doubt (I’m only a padre after all, and don’t travel in such exalted circles).  I simply want to highlight the fact that we often have more influence than we think or credit ourselves.  And this can be positive or negative.  We may not realize just what a positive influence we’ve been to that young private or kid we coach in hockey: the time, the attention, the encouragement, the role model we’ve been.  Or, we may not know how we’ve harmed someone through our inattention, poorly chosen words, or thoughtless ‘joke.’

We all have influence.  And those of us who are in positions of authority and are mentors to others, have a great deal of influence.  Let’s be positive sources of influence.

(Now I’m going to wait by the phone for the W Chief to call and say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  Oh, happy day!)

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