A Higher Power

While I lived in South Africa, I got to know a remarkable Quaker, John Broom. He taught me the real basis of sainthood: understanding and honoring the difference between the human self and God.

As a young man, he had settled in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and become a partner in Deloitte and Touche—not an accounting firm, but the accounting firm in southern Africa. He owned a small fleet of cars, some horses, a mansion, helped start a golf club.

Then one of his clients, a farmer, overextended himself building an irrigation dam and didn’t see how he could avoid bankruptcy. John looked at the books and wasn’t hopeful.

“Is there anything you can do for me?” the client asked. John, who had never been religious, heard himself saying, “I don’t know—I guess I’ll pray,” and went home and did that. That same evening, ideas started coming for adjustments that could prevent a crisis until the dam (actually a good investment in itself) started to pay off. He hurried back the next day for another conversation with the farmer. Within a year, the farm was out of danger.

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About the Author

Sarah Ruden’s most recent book is Paul Among the People (Image Books). She has translated four books of classical literature (among them the Aeneid) and is the author of Other Places, a book of poetry. She is a visiting scholar at Wesleyan University and lives with her husband in Middleton, Connecticut.