One person can make a difference and can multiply themselves a hundred fold, a thousand fold, or more.
My adventure started with a story I shared on the internet. Harvey lives in New Zealand. He read my Iditarod story and emailed me. We began to swap our flying adventures, his about New Zealand and mine about flying for the Iditarod dog sled race. We were the older generation of internet pen-pals.Harvey said that it would be a dream come true if he could fly the Alaska Iditarod race.
I was with my son Michael having a sandwich in Portland, Oregon. Michael is a Missionary living in New Zealand. We were talking about his new home in New Zealand. I pulled out my Visa and had him get me a ticket to New Zealand. I was on my way to see my friend.
I shot Harvey a quick note and told him I was coming to New Zealand. His response was “Good on You” and “Come on down,” We are going on an outback adventure.
After a very short fourteen hours on one of Boeing best, I was in Auckland. I had a brief visit with my son and then was off to Palmerston North on the North Island of New Zealand. As I stepped off the plane and went in side I was greeted by a handsome young man, Charlie, Harvey’s son.
We greeted as if we already knew each other. Then, we were off in a dashing car to a small airport where Harvey’s beautiful Cessna 185, sat in all of itʼs glory. We jumped in and were off to Harveyʼs Sheep Station.
It was a beautiful flight. I was flying in a Cessna 185 across New Zealand. I had to pinch myself to make sure it was really happening. Charlie throttled back, pulled flaps and lined us up on what was very similar to a good Alaskan bush strip, tucked into a
small ravine alongside a rambling creek lined with large trees and sheep. We have sheep, but not like they have sheep.
Charlie did a fantastic job. When he is not flying the 185, his real job is as a Captain in the New Zealand Air force, flying the latest in modern day Helicopters. His Cessna skills and helicopter skills had merged and we made a perfect landing.
I got out, walked over to meet Harvey, and it was as if we had known each other for all of our lives. We had lived thousands of miles apart and had never met, and nor did it matter, we were like long time friends. It was instant.
In aviation, because there is a certain mystery to flying, pilots have a kinship with their fellow aviators. This is especially true within our ranks of the Cessna 180/5 group. I settled in on at the sheep station. There was sheep herding, four wheeling, and of course flying.
I spent over all six weeks traveling throughout all of New Zealand, both the North and South Islands, while viewing it behind the windshields of 180/5ʼs.
I met new friends of the Cessna 180 / 5 ilk. They all speak Cessna with a 180/5 dialect and a New Zealand accent.
Harvey and I were driving and he told this story. This story is a real version of the Christmas story “It a Wonderful Life”. Harvey was on his way home, rounding the last curve before his driveway when he saw a hitchhiker. Of course he stopped.
There were the usual helloʼs, who are you, and what are you doing. The young man was from Kansas, on his way to Australia to teach English. He was touring New Zealand before he was off to his teaching job. Harvey invited him to stay with his wife Chrissie and their two young boys, Charlie and Richard.
Harvey is a flying sheep herder. He owns a sheep station, and believe me they are not small. He uses his plane to check on the sheep, the grass, and the general condition of his station, and he loves to fly. He shared his familyʼs life with the young man. Showing him the ropes of sheep station life and of course the adventures of riding a magic carpet flying in and about in Harvey’s plane. They flew and landed on the hillsides, landed on beaches, and flew the local mountains and found good sandbars to land on.
The visit turned into at least a week and it passed quickly. It was time to say their goodbyes, and the young man was off to teach English in Australia.
Several weeks passed, Harvey receded a post. “Post” is New Zealand for letter. The letter thanked Harvey for the great adventure, and for the time he spent with his family.
The young man said that his younger brother was coming to spend some time in Australia, like himself he was touring New Zealand. He asked if his brother could spend some time visiting Harvey’s family as he had. Of course the answer was yes. Harvey flew his plane to the town of Hasting to meet the younger brother. They greeted each other and loaded his bag, and they were off in the Harveyʼs two place plane.
Shortly after take off he asked his young friend to reach in the back and find a short control stick, and place it in the hole between his feet. He quickly responded and Harvey told him to take hold of the control stick and move it slightly to the left, right, forward and back.
He showed him the basics of flying and the young man caught on quickly. He was a quick study. It must have been because he was raised on a farm, and there are many kinds of equipment and you need to learn how it all works.
He was a natural flying the plane. Really once the plane is airborne it does not take much experience to keep it level and going in one direction.
Harvey asked him if he could see the mountain in the distance, and he said “Yes Sir!”. He pulled his hat down over his eyes, leaned back and said “fly us there”.
With Harvey’s hat down over his eyes, pretending to nap (or who knows maybe he was napping), the young aviator took the controls and flew us to the mountain. They landed on beaches, hillsides, sandbars, and sometimes would spot a sheep stuck in a mud hole.
There were the lessons of life to be shared and adventures to be had, but heck, Harvey was just being Harvey.
Chrissie, Harveyʼs Wife was a school teacher. Together they raised their young sons’ on their sheep station. Chrissie would gain her PHD in Education and the young boys became young men, both officers in the New Zealand Air force. Richard is the Captain of C130 transports and Charlie a Captain flying helicopters, they both are of course are masters of the Cessna 185.
One evening at the sheep station the phone rang. “Harvey here”, Harvey said. The voice on the other end said “ Harvey, this is Fred.” Harvey said that he did not know anyone named Fred. Fred went on to reacquaint himself,” I am the young man that stayed with you and your family, the younger brother of the school teacher.” Now he knew Fred. Fred said that he was with the US Air force, and they were doing some joint exercises with the New Zealand Air force. Fred asked if they could get together. Harvey said of course, he could fly his Cessna 185 to Christchurch and get together with Fred. Fred was explaining to Harvey about some of the procedures when Harvey said “Here, talk to my son, Richard, as he is a pilot and operates C-One-thirties in and out of Christchurch.”
Richard talked to Fred “ Hi Fred, ya, sure, okay, Fred, we will be there on Friday see you.” Friday arrived, they were off. Harveyʼs trusty red 185 was headed to Christchurch.
As they approached the field, the tower reply to Richardʼs request “ Yes Captain B. you are cleared to land.”
Richard said the controllers are not that nice to him when he is in the C-One-thirty.
When they taxied off, the ground controller said “Yes Captain B., please follow the truck to parking.” Again Richard turned to his dad and said, they do not talk to me like that when I am in the Herk. They taxied to a stop, pulled the mixture, turned off the switches, and Richard said usually there is an airman guiding him to parking, but today it was an officer.
When they got out, Richard immediately came to attention and salute the Officer. The officer returned a sharp crisp salute. The officer then smiled and put out his hand, and said “ Hi Richard, I am Fred.” Fred was a three star general. Fred turned to Harvey and saluted him in full military regalia as sharp and crisp as he had given to Richard, then followed with a hug. “Good to see you again, Harvey,” Fred said. Richard later said to his dad “I called him Fred!” In the military junior officers never address a higher rank with such familiarity, especially a General.
Thirty some years had passed since Harvey and Fred met. Fred had left to join his brother, then went back to Kansas, finished high school, and went on to college. Fredʼs family could only help a little bit with funds, so he went looking for a way to pay for school.
After his time with Harvey, the flying bug had taken a bite out of him. The Air force ROTCʼs would be Fred’s route to pay for college.
He spent the payback of his ROTC commitment with thirty-five years of flying and moving through the ranks.
There are many curves and many roads. One never knows where the next curve in a road will lead. For Fred, that curve in the road was that day Harvey picked up his brother.
Here he was back in New Zealand, and with the man who said “See that mountain over there? Fly us there.”
Harvey and Fred stayed in close contact. Today with emails and modern stuff, it remains easier then in the old days of the last thirty-five years. Time passed as time passes, and then one day Harvey received a very official post, a large manila envelope. It was very
important looking. It was from the United States, and it was addressed from the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff of the United States Government. It was addressed to Harvey. Kinda spooky. Why would the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff be sending him a large official government envelope? To say he was eager to open it puts it mildly.
He did not want to open it in his truck, it looked too important for that. The drive home seemed to take a bit longer then usual, there it was staring at him.
He made it home and carefully opened it with a sharp knife, cutting it slowly, remembering it was very important looking. One does not just rip open an envelope that looks this importantI! The letter inside was address to him and Chrissie.
It requested our presence at the retirement ceremony for Fred. The retirement was taking place in Washington, DC. It was not just a request, but a beautiful embossed invitation to them from the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff to join him at the retirement ceremony of his friend General Fred! Yes, the young kid that went flying with him. The invitation was from one of the highest ranking generals in one of the most important offices in the United States Military.
The letter asked that Chrissie and I attend in Washington, DC the celebration of Fredʼs thirty-five years of military life. The ceremony was as grand an event as one could imagine. It was filled with pomp and circumstance. It truly was an honorable event. There were not any Kings or Queens there, but they would have felt right at home that night.
That evening, after the formal ceremony, they were invited to the home of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefʼs of Staff of the United States of America to continue our celebration of Fredʼs service. Everyone looked normal. The dress code was formal civilian. You could not find anything that was military. They were all seated around as grand a table that one can imagine. The evening dinner was hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He made introductions and had kind words to say about our friend Fred. It was time for Fred to say a few words, after all he was finishing a thirty-five year career in the United States Air force.
A life that began as a young boy traveling through New Zealand, through school, college and through the ranks of one of the greatest military in the world. Fred travelled the world with his career, moving through the ranks, forming who he was, and affecting the lives of
countless numbers of people that were a major part of his life as an officer in the United States Air force.
Who had touched him in his life and what difference had they made in his life? How would anyone be able to compute the numbers?
Fred raised his glass and asked everyone to join him in a toast to two people who without any doubt, made a HUGE difference in his life. They changed his destiny.
Fred asked everyone to stand and he gave a toast to Harvey and Chrissie.
“I would not be here today, had it not been for Harvey asking me,“ See that mountain? Fly us there.”
Harvey is like George in the movie “Itʼs a wonderful life”. Not only did Harvey have an affect on Fred, but the countless numbers of people that Fred went on to touch in his life. It is inconceivable to count the people in Fredʼs life that he and Harvey had affected. Harvey was a great leader himself, and he gave that to others and to Fred. Harvey had not been a world traveler, he did not rise through the ranks of a great military, but yet he did. Indeed, he did.
There were two generals present at that retirement dinner. One from New Zealand and the other from Kansas. How great it is that their lives were able to come full circle and that the effects of one small deed could have such an effect in so many lives. Fred went on to lead in his thirty-five years of rising through the ranks to become a three star General. He had learned to become the best leader of himself, and others followed.
The effect that Harvey had on Fred, changed untold lives, One person can change the world, when multiplied once and again, and a thousand fold. Harvey did not have a grand design, he just did what came from his heart. He did not have think about it. For Harvey, it just was, and that changed lives. It is an impossible number to know who and how many Fred and Harvey had an affect on.
Few people ever get to know the effect they have had, but tonight all of those people were touched by not one general, but two. The United States Military does not give out stars lightly. You do not find them in cereal boxes. Each tip of every star represents years of leadership. The development of skills and education, dedication and pure hard work. Not just some of the time, but all the time in his pursuit of growth through the ranks.
It is hard to imagine who, and how many lives were affected, by the one small action of giving a young man the chance to fly to a mountain.
There is a theory called the Butterfly effect. When a butterfly flaps itʼs wings, there is an effect. Harvey helped Fred flap his wings, and we know in that their lives there was an effect that day thirty-five years ago. It is impossible to calculate the ripple effect of one small act.
This story does not end here.
I had the opportunity to be visiting my son in New Zealand. There was an event for the sixty year anniversary of the Cessna 180/5 group and I was a guest speaker at the dinner banquet. I talked about how our airplanes were more then just vehicles to move us from point A to point B. Our Cessnaʼs are the glue that bonds us all together.
I finished my talk and sat down next to Harvey. He looked up at me and said, “Good job! Hey, I want you to meet my friend Fred.” I looked over put out my hand and out of my mouth came the words,” You’re Fred.” Harveyʼs Fred.
Fred was a distinguished man, short military haircut, wearing a dark blue polo shirt with white pin striping and the words U.S. Air force embroidered over his heart. Even without his uniform he looked like a General. I was able to spend the afternoon at Harveyʼs. I said it again, that’s your Fred.They both looked up at me and smiled. Fred had returned home, finished high school, college with the help of ROTC, and certainly with a great deal of luck. Not just the finding of a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk kind of luck, this was the luck that is spelled work. The kind of luck that smells like sweat.
After college, Fred reported for his tour of ROTC payback. Little did he ever imagine that he would make his lifeʼs work in the military and become a General. Fred’s life became a dream of which he had never expected. He had found his passion in the aviation.
It was not just that one flight, but the total essence of his time with you and your family. His life was changed that week. It is an interesting thing about lifeʼs experiences, you really do not sit back and categorise them, you do not necessary say because of this, then that. There are those events, and times that are pivotal. They happen all around us.
As a young dumb kid, or as aspiring young adult, or as a beaming adult moving through life, these events happen. They can be placed on a graph frame and graphed. The lines across, and the lines up and down. One line is preparation, the other line opportunity. Where the lines on a graph cross, that is luck, it is the work kind of luck. Once you learn the secret, that luck is simply preparation and opportunity, and when we know the difference, we become very lucky.
People often will never see the back story. The blood, sweat, and tears, only the result, the rewards. Often a comment will be made,” so and so was just lucky.” Yes, they were lucky, the work kind of luck, the luck that smells like sweat. Success can be defined in another way. Success is opportunity, spiced with persistence. I watched Harvey, he choose how he wanted to live and figured out what he had to do to live that life. Generally people do the opposite. They choose work and adjust their lifestyle around their work. I was able to choose my lifestyle, and my work became my life. Leadership by example is the best form of leadership. Harvey lead the way. He is the best leader of himself, and others followed as did I.
Harvey and Fred were at the sheep station. I was able to spend the afternoon with them. I was able to see the two men together. It really was interesting, the two men really could have been father and son. They had similar builds. Neither tall or short, not skinny or fat. Even the shape of their faces were alike. The seemed to talk and act like each knew what the other one was thinking. My afternoon closed in on me, and it was time to say our goodbyes. I invited them both to come visit me in Alaska. We shook hands, and through in a hug, and I was off. Harvey and Fred were standing on the deck as I walked to my car. I was about twenty steps from them, when I suddenly spun around came to attention and saluted. For me it was a natural reaction. I was trained in basic training, that when you are in the presents of higher rank, especially deserved higher rank, you salute. It was automatic. Amazingly, both Fred and Harvey instantly came to attention exactly together and returned my salute. We held our salute, I turned and walked to my car. There must have been some dust or pollen in the air, because tears came to my eyes. That moment there was not just one General, there were two. I drove away in silence, deep in thought. Be the best leader of yourself, guide, lead by example. That is what my two friends had done with their lives.
Lives were forever changed that day some thirty-five years ago on a sheep station in New Zealand. I left two world leaders stand on the deck on at the sheep station that day.
Words and actions have power. They are like bullets, they can harm and kill. It is our charge to use our words and actions with care. Each day of our lives, we all have the power to shape our world for good. Our words and actions, can and do change
people in ways that we may never know. Knowing who or what we may have changed is not important. What is important is, bumping and guiding people, and leading our lives as the best example of what is right. Remember the Butterfly effect, flap your wings we have the power.