Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's All in the Plan

Ever try to eat an elephant? I suppose if you were very hungry, and someone presented you with that much meat, it would be welcome, but also quite overwhelming. The short answer to “How can I do this?” is “One little chunk at a time.” What that really means, though is that you’d have to have a plan. How would you keep that huge amount of food fresh? Where would you store it? How would you prepare it?  The planning would also help you feel better about what might seem an insurmountable task.

 At my “day job” for the State of Arkansas, our office walls are often papered with huge spreadsheets. Part of the “project plan”, they outline the responsibilities of each team member in assuring that the current project happens in accordance with our deadlines. There is a measure of comfort in checking the chart, marking your own name off as your task is completed, feeling a part of the whole process.

  My father-in-law related something that happened in our region in the early 1940’s, that made him a very important part of a plan. He grew up in the Ouachita mountains on a road that was “just a road”, only getting a name years later when nine-one-one came along. From previous stories, I’ve gathered that he and his friends enjoyed nothing more than bouncing along those rocky byways, with as many of their buddies packed into their Fords, Chevys and Plymouths as possible. When they actually ended up on paved roads, the world became their oyster.

 As a young man of 16 or 17, he was asked to assist a family who had a son with an illness so serious it couldn’t be treated in Saline County. Being of the previous, less traveled generation, the boy’s parents had never been to Little Rock. He recounts that the little boy’s eyes were only showing white that day, and he was in very weak condition. So without much hesitation, a plan was born. Daring young Carlisle eagerly volunteered to provide the ambulance.

Before the construction of  Interstate and improvements on Highway 10, the 40 odd mile journey from Paron to Little Rock involved a lot of hills, curves, rocks and dirt. In the family’s B Model Ford, they set out, with R.V. at the wheel. He told the parents not to pay any attention to the route they were taking on the way in. Directions for their hospital visits could come later.  For this trip,speed was the important thing. He says now that it “didn’t take long. You could really throw up some dust in a B Model.”

Setting off on Paron’s 12th Street, they headed east. He says they never saw anything that looked like town until they turned north on Park Street in Little Rock, and jogged over to 7th and Chester, the first four-way stop on the route. From there to the University Hospital, which was then located in McArthur Park, they had to sit through some stoplights, but the boy arrived in time to receive his life-saving treatment, and is still around today. How hopeless those folks must have felt, and how wonderful to discover that all it took was a plan, and a courageous youngster to help them implement it.

A doctor’s diagnosis often necessitates a new plan. Diets, exercises, medications can offer us hope. The plan encourages us, gives us a way to deal with a very frightening prospect. When things don’t go as planned, we begin to realize that God can see past this life. He has plans for us that include a much brighter future with Him.

When faced with an elephant, pause for a moment, say a prayer and seek help coming up with a plan. That whole idea of taking just one chunk at a time will begin to make a lot more sense.

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