The Soldier Who Liked to Sing
Stanley was seventeen and a seniori in high school when he first came into my Senior Department of the Church School. Like many other boys, he was weary of school and found it very difficult to make himself get up and be at school on time; to prepare his lessons as he should; to stay away from Scouts or a social in order to study. He wanted to leave school and go to work, but work was very scarce in 1939, and he couldn't find work that suited him. So he was often very much discouraged.
It was my habit, occasionally, to ask for suggestions for hymns to be used during the worship hour of the department. The first hand to be raised, usually, belonged to Stanley, and his choice of a hymn was always the same. He wanted to sing "'Are Ye Able?' said the Master." And Stanley sang the hymn with all his boyish enthusiasm, often causing others to turn and smile at him. Over and over he asked me to let him choose the hymn.
One day Stanley came to tell me that he had enlisted.
"I feel as if my life will be counting then," he said. "I want to be of some use somewhere, and the Army seems to be the place."
So off he went to camp. Occasionally he would write. Twice he came to see me when he was home.
"Sometimes when I'm on guard," he said, "and it's a bit lonesome, I sing. Can you guess what I sing.' Sure. '"Are Ye Able?" ' I'm glad I know it." His next card came from the West Coast: —
"This is Sunday. and I'm thinking with longing of the home church, and I'm wishing I might slip into the seiior Department and listen to a story or lesson, or better still, sing my dear, old hymn. '"Are Ye Able?"' I often sing it here, for I've found another fellow who knows and likes it."
Soon a card came from Honolulu:—
" Thinking of home and church. I wish I could go to church to-day. I'd like to sing my hymn with a lot of other young folks."
Then came the tragedy of Pearl Harbour. For a time only his mother had word from Stanley, and he sent only a few letters or short cards. When my card came, it said: —
"Humming my song to-day. Wish I could have a talk with you this morning."
The citation came only a few days after the card, and it read, "Died of burns on the head and trunk and limbs received at Pearl Harbour." He had said no word of being burned, or of those dreadful weeks in the hospital; nothing that would cause fear or worry in his home. What a hero he had been!
I reread his card, "Humming my song to-day." Had he been too ill to sing? Had it helped? I turned to my songbook and read the hymn. The third verse reads: —
"Are ye able," when the shadows
Close around you with the sod,
To believe that spirit triumphs,
To commend your soul to God?
"Lord, we are able." Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be,
A beacon to God. to love and loyalty.
Yes, learning the hymn in the Church School had helped when he was in dire need. Only a boy. still, his life had counted, and his spirit had conquered.
There is a playground, already, named for him in Boston, and the Scouts love to talk of their former leader. But I shall always remember him as standing with his head thrown back, and his eyes aglow, as he sang, so sincerely, " 'Lord, we are able.' Our spirits are Thine."