Latest Latrine Rumors

“‘Prepare chains!
    For the land is full of bloodshed,
    and the city is full of violence.
I will bring the most wicked of nations
    to take possession of their houses.
I will put an end to the pride of the mighty,
    and their sanctuaries will be desecrated.
When terror comes,
    they will seek peace in vain.
Calamity upon calamity will come,
    and rumor upon rumor.
They will go searching for a vision from the prophet,
    priestly instruction in the law will cease,
    the counsel of the elders will come to an end.
The king will mourn,
    the prince will be clothed with despair,
    and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.
I will deal with them according to their conduct,
    and by their own standards I will judge them.

“‘Then they will know that I am the Lord.’”

  • Ezekiel 7:23-27

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

  • John 10:27

“Dean, in fact, was truthful and very kind to some of his sick friends.  He went out of his way to help them.  When he saw someone in the dumps, he walked over and gave them the latest latrine rumor.  This perked the kid up, livened him up a bit. Dean was famous for these rumors.  He said he was taking after me.”

  • Abie Abraham, Oh, God, Where Are You?

The first Scripture describes the calamity that was Camp O’Donnell, Philippines, during World War II, even mentioning rumors.

First, a ‘latrine rumor’ could be about anything and not just in wartime.  It could be any rumor that is spread throughout an organization.  Since a lot of gossip and small talk could spread around any general toilet facility, the concept of ‘latrine rumor’ gives the latrine as the initiating point for the rumor.  Thus, the latrine rumor has no clear originator, simply something overhead while using the facilities.  This is the technical definition of ‘latrine rumor.’

In the case of Camp O’Donnell (the best-known – most infamous? – POW camp in the Philippines during World War II), latrine rumors usually dealt with when they would be rescued, what islands have been taken by the Allied forces, or anything else that indicated that their rescue was coming soon.  The latrine rumors might be cruel in time, but for a short stretch, the latrine rumor can bring hope, something in short supply when everyone around you seemed to be ill or dying.

Second, who is Dean?  Dean was a member of Abraham’s ‘gang’ at Camp O’Donnell.  Twelve names were mentioned.  Stanton, from yesterday’s post was one of the twelve.  Another six were mentioned in the following pages of the book, either in conversation or in a description of their actions.  It seems that Abraham’s ‘gang’ helped others when they were not talking shade-tree philosophy, mostly dealing with their faith in God.

The beauty of Dean passing along the latest latrine rumor is that Dean is described by Abie Abraham as being truthful.  Dean did not make up the story that he used to encourage someone to hang onto life for another day.  Dean may have heard the rumor from the camp liar, but he did not make it up.  Through spies who were able to get in and out of the camp bringing supplies, some of the information received was at least a bit based on reality – sometimes.

As a counter to the truthfulness of Dean, S/Sgt. Abraham characterized the encouragement given by the priests as being lies, telling the men that they will be well soon, when there was no guarantee, and with some, they would not survive the rescue.  The only hope for most of the sick was an almost immediate rescue.

Getting the men out of bed to exercise was important in recovery for those who were not deathly ill.  Abraham tells of a ruse concocted between the Jewish chaplain and one of the doctors to motivate the moderately ill patients.  They went into the barracks and told the sick patients that if they could not go outside for exercise, they would get worse and grow more ill each day until exercise was no longer an option.  The chaplain was worried that the men would not die in a state of cleanliness.  To make sure the men had a clean death, the doctor and the chaplain would perform circumcisions or everyone in the barracks.  They only needed a minute or two to set up for the ceremony.  The barracks was immediately emptied.  The ill prisoners had decided that they were not that ill.

But back to the idea of ‘latrine rumors.’  Possibly my most beloved boss, at least in the top three, had a reputation for starting latrine rumors.  He was the Superintendent of maintenance and I was, at one time, his only ‘engineer.’  Some of the supervisors were engineers; I was the only grunt.  He had men spread over several different facilities.  If he needed to change policies, he would list all the options on a notepad.  He would go to the restroom nearest the maintenance shops in one of the locations.  He waited for the center stall to be opened and went into the stall to wait for some of his men to enter the restroom.  He had hundreds of people working for him, but as Jesus said in John 10:27 above, he knew their voices and they knew his.  He’d grunt or cough and then say, “How am I going to sell this idea to management?  Now for this latest policy change, I think we should …”  After he started the rumor in a couple of locations, he’d go back to his office and monitor morale.  If everyone was happier, he had a good idea, and the new policy had a greater chance of being accepted, having already improved morale.  If everyone was grumpier, he might not have a good idea.  If one of the supervisors or foremen stormed into his office complaining about the rumor that was floating around, he would take out his notepad, scratch off the top idea and go back to the restroom to start the next latrine rumor.  The Superintendent cared deeply for all his people.

We all loved the guy.  We all called him, Daddy Earl.

I had a friend who passed away recently.  It was sudden.  He and I had been teamed up for a Bible study group at the church, back years ago.  There were supposed to be three of us, but the third guy never showed up for the first month of weekly meetings and then we never called him after that.  We continued the meetings after the prescribed six-week timeframe.  We liked each other’s company, and we learned from each other.  His name was Earl, and even though he was only a few years older, I called him Daddy Earl.  He will be missed.

Whether you use latrine rumors to make management decisions or to encourage the severely ill, it is only one technique in spreading the message of hope.  Hope can be found in God.  Through God, we have strength and power.  Through God we have the promise of life everlasting, and God is truthful.  You can trust Him.  Through God, we have HOPE.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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