Be Prepared: A True Story


Once upon a time (mid 1980s), in a land far away (UVic), Prince Ken (Athletics and Recreation Director Ken Shields, most decorated varsity basketball coach in Canadian history) had a problem. He knew there were many things his principality, his area of the kingdom, needed — and needed badly — but, alas, he had no gold coins with which to purchase them. Many of these things were very important to ensure the safety and health of his people! Other things were important to ensure they were also happy, and could keep on being the best athletes (rowers and basketballers and swimmers) in the entire world (Canada).

One day he received a message from the King Howard (UVic president Howard Petch). In fact, every single prince (it was a big kingdom) got the same message. It read something like this:

“A fairy godmother (anonymous donor) has offered the Kingdom a gift of $50,000, but she has some rules before she will give it to us. We have to be able to tell her exactly what we want to use it for, why we need it, and exactly how much money those things we need will cost. On top of that, we only have until Friday at 4:30 to get back to her on this or she’ll take her gift to another kingdom instead. And, if we do win the gold coins in time, we have to spend them within a week or she’ll take whatever’s left back and give them to some other kingdom.”

(This was already Wednesday afternoon.)

“Does anyone have anything they need? Please tell me right away! I need your lists by the time I have my morning coffee tomorrow, for tomorrow I will review your submissions and decide which projects to tell the fairy godmother we want to use her gold coins for. I hope to let as many as you have some of the gold coins as possible; act fast!”

Most of the princes responded to the message the same way: first with much excitement at the possibility of getting some of the gold coins for their principality, but then with dismay at the demands the fairy godmother had placed on the gift, and the incredibly short time they had to figure out their answer to the king. They called together all their wise men and, long into the night, heads wagged and people argued over what projects each of the princes should submit to the king the next day.

Not Prince Ken.

To everyone’s surprise, he went to bed just like usual, and was sleeping soundly that night. All his advisors were quite upset because they wanted to talk about the things their principality needed! The prince’s guards kept them far away, telling the advisors they had orders to let the prince sleep.

The next morning they rushed up to him, and started yelling all at once. “I need new lifejackets!” yelled the rowing master.

“I need a new time clock!” yelled the basketball master.

“I need a new emergency phone!” yelled the swimming master.

“Why didn’t we get to talk to you about this last night so that we could get our message in to the king before he has his coffee this morning?” they all demanded to know.

Prince Ken just listened for a while, and then, to everyone’s surprise, he smiled.

“The king already has our list,” he said, quietly.

“What did he say?” they asked each other.

“The king already has our list.”

“How did he know what we needed?” they asked each other.

One quiet little lady in the back corner finally spoke up and said, “Don’t you know? He’s been listening to us and making our wish list all this time.”

The advisors all rushed away and sent their messengers to check with their secret friends in the king’s office, and learned that it was, indeed, true. The king did have Prince Ken’s list already. In fact, even though the other princes had stayed up all night debating with their advisors what should be on their lists, none of the other princes got their list in to the king before he had his coffee.

Not one.

Only Prince Ken.

“Prince Ken arrived to see the king about fifteen minutes after he got the message about the gift, which means he must have mounted his horse and galloped right over there to get it there that quickly! As soon as he arrived, he tossed out the scroll on the king’s table, letting it unroll all the way, right before the king’s eyes. It was as long as the table! It had all the details — what the items his advisors and masters needed were, why they needed them, and how much they would cost, just like the fairy godmother instructed! He had even listed them in order of priority!”

The king was deeply impressed, and the fairy godmother was so surprised (she had really thought that she might get to keep her money after all!) she gave the king the whole bag of gold coins right away and told him to give the whole $50,000 to Prince Ken.

So it was that the Principality of Athletics and Recreation, in the land of UVic, received the largest single surprise donation anyone in the kingdom had ever seen. The prince and his advisors used up all the gold coins at once to help the athletes of the kingdom become even better than they ever were before!

It was an experience the other princes never forgot.

And guess what? They sat with their advisors and made their own lists, determined never to be unprepared to receive surprise gifts ever again!

And they all lived happily ever after.