This I Believe
Burckel, William Garrett
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. William Garrett Burckel is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee. His drawl has somewhat been erased, as he has lived and worked in Connecticut for the past two decades. He is now a supervisor at the Remington Arms Company, and he makes his home with his wife and eight-year-old daughter in Nichols, Connecticut. Here now the beliefs of William Garrett Burckel.
I grew up in the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age of F. Scott Fitzgerald. For a good many years after graduating from college, I was without any firm or positive belief. What could I believe in when, all around me, there was plentiful evidence of depravity, corruption, and evil? These things seemed to be the usual, the accepted. The headlines were full of them. Then it began to dawn on me that rather than hate and dishonesty, the many unsung kindnesses—honesty and common decency—are considered too usual to be newsworthy. An airplane disaster makes sensational news; the routine flight of a plane makes no headlines. Perhaps I was judging the body of society by its very abnormalities.
As the years passed, I also found that despite a measure of material success and despite a wonderful family, I felt a strange lack: an indefinable aloneness. After a number of years of worry, which was increased by an increasing lack of tolerance to alcohol, and after observing most of my friends leading normal, happy lives in which church played at least a part, I began to recall some of my childhood faith and joined the church. This was no blinding burst of glory fever; there was no dramatic change. But a slow, not-to-be-denied change did begin to make itself felt.
And then came adversity and tragedy. First I took a stupid fall that meant weeks in the hospital and several operations.
Then, when I was still in the cast, on Christmas night, 1950—which also happened to be our twentieth wedding anniversary—our 12-½ year old, Sally, was lost in a skating accident. In the days and weeks that followed, our friends and our minister somehow got me to pledge blindly to my new and infant faith and it grew as I called on it for support. Such an outpouring of spontaneous and loving help, of all kinds and from all people, can scarcely be imagined. But still, I knew moments of almost unbearable sorrow.
One night in May, the bottom seemed to fall out of everything. As I prayed ceaselessly for a way out, for relief, I became gradually aware of a rhythm to my thoughts to my words.
On an unexplainable impulse, I started to write them down on a small notepad. I had never written anything before, but the words simply gushed out and a hymn prayer was born. In somewhat similar fashion, two other hymns have come into being, as have several poems. These have given comfort not only to me but to several others who have been brushed by the shadow. Can I now doubt the fact that a higher power heals me and helps me? Can I doubt the essential goodness of people? Can I do less than affirm this faith, this conviction?
Therefore, I say, I believe in God and in Christ and in God’s ministries to his people. I believe in the innate and essential goodness of men, when given the chance for expression.
I believe that there is some nameless force of evil which works against this and which—though it may prevail for a time—in some instances will ultimately be overcome by the accumulated forces of good. From all of this, I believe that God has a plan for man and the world, and that I, as an individual, can help Him as He will help me, if I will do my share.
That was William Garrett Burckel, whose beliefs were strengthened by tragedy. Now in times of need, he finds comfort in them.