Courage For The Sake Of Others
FROM Norway comes a moving tale of a lighthouse keeper. One day he went
to the distant shore for provisions. A storm arose, and he was unable to
return. The time for lighting the lamp came, and Mary, the elder child,
said to her little brother, "We must light the lamp, Willie." "How can
we?" was his question. But the two children climbed the long narrow
stairs to the tower where the lamp was kept. Mary pulled up a chair and
tried to reach the lamp in the great reflector; it was too high. Groping
down the stairs she ascended again with a small oil lamp in her hand. "I
can hold this up," she said. She climbed on the chair again, but still
the reflector was just beyond her reach. "Get down," said Willie, "I
know what we can do." She jumped down and he stretched his little body
across the chair. "Stand on me," he said. And she stood on the little
fellow as he lay across the chair. She raised the lamp high, and its
light shone far out across the water. Holding it first with one hand,
then with the other, to rest her little arms, she called down to her
brother, "Does it hurt you, Willie?" "Of course it hurts," he called
back, "but keep the light burning."
The boy was wise beyond his years. He would do the important thing, no
matter how it hurt. Here the thing of chief importance was looking out
for the men at sea. To put them first took real courage. But what of it?
That is the attitude toward life of the worker worth while; he does not
stop to ask, "Is this easy?" Instead he asks, "Is this necessary? Will
it be helpful?" Having answered the question he proceeds to do his best.
It may hurt at first, but the time will come when it will hurt so much
to leave the service undone that the inconvenience involved in doing it
is lost sight of.
A young man won local fame as a bicycle long-distance rider. But
over-fatigue, possibly coupled with neglect, caused contraction of
certain muscles. He was unable to stand erect. He walked with bent back,
like an old man. "What useful work can he do, handicapped as he is?"
his friends asked.
But he did not lose courage. He continued to smile and make cheer for
others. Finally he secured work in the office of the supervisor of a
National Forest. And he made good. Most of his activities were at the
desk; when he sat there his back was normal.
According to the idea of many, it would have been enough for the
crippled man to look out for himself. What could he do for others? But
he had not been trained in such a school; the cheerfulness that enabled
him to be useful made it impossible for him to see another in need and
not plan to do something for him.
The man who needed him was at hand--a cripple, whose feet were clumsy,
misshapen. No one else thought that anything could be done for him but
to speak dolefully and to assure him that he was fortunate in having
parents and brothers who would look out for him.
But the man in the Forestry Service urged the cripple to apply for a
summer appointment on the rocky, windy summit of a mountain nine
thousand feet high. There it would be his duty to keep a vigilant eye on
the forest stretching far away below his lofty eyrie, and to report the
start of a forest fire. At first he laughed at the idea; had he not
been told that he could never hope to do anything useful? Yet as he
listened to his friend his eyes began to sparkle. Finally he dared to
agree to make application for the position.
During the winter months the forester spent many evenings with his
friend, coaching him in some of the lore of the forests, giving him
books to read, and showing him what his specific duties would be, and
how to perform them.
In the spring the situation was secured, and when the season of forest
fires came the young man bravely climbed the steep trail over the snow
to his lonely cabin. An able-bodied man is able to make the climb from
the end of the wagon road in much less than an hour; the cripple
required more than five hours to reach the top. Then he took up his
residence there, cooking his own food, making his observations from
morning until night, receiving his mother and his brothers when from
time to time they came to see how he was getting on and to help him in
some of the rougher tasks about the cabin. They thought they would need
to speak words of cheer to a lonely, discouraged man, but they soon
learned their error; not only did he have cheer enough for himself, but
he was able to send his visitors away happier than when they came
because of their contact with the man for whom life had been made over
by the acts of a thoughtful friend, a friend whose own courage had been
increased by his efforts to encourage a friend.
In a volume of short stories published some years ago there is included
the vivid narrative of two humble citizens of an Irish village, a
husband and wife, upon whom hard times have come. The husband is too
feeble to make his living as of old at his trade as a road-mender. Their
only hope is a son in America, and not a word comes from him, so they
are compelled to go to the poor house.
Friends condole with them, and they are sad enough to suit the notions
of those who feel that an awful ending is coming to their lives. One of
the saddest of their friends is their physician who dreads going to see
the unhappy old people in their new home. At last, however, he drives to
the entrance to the poor farm. There he has his first surprise. Instead
of seeing the disreputable place he had been accustomed to, he notices
that the gate is on its hinges, the weeds by the side of the driveway
are no longer in evidence, and an attempt has been made to give the
house itself a more presentable appearance. About the doors are no
discontented-looking old people, quarreling with one another. And when
the wife of the poor farm keeper answers his knock at the door, the
doctor hardly recognizes her; instead of a discouraged-looking slattern
she is actually neat and cheerful looking.
"You wonder what has happened here, don't you?" the woman remarks. "It's
all because of those blessed old folks you are asking for. They were
disheartened, just at first, but soon they began to do helpful things
for the rest of the folks. That cheered us all up, and it's made a
different place of the farm."
The doctor's errand that day is to take word to the couple that their
son from America wishes them to spend the remainder of their days with
him. He has expected them to be overjoyed by the news. But, after
talking together of the invitation, they assure him that their place is
where they are. "We be road-mending here, making ways smoother for the
folks that have rough traveling," is the explanation. "We think we ought
to bide at the farm."
Thus the old people took the way of conquering unhappiness made known so
long ago by Him who set the example of finding joy in caring for other
people, the way taken by a modern follower of His who wrote home from
"I cast my lot where I knew the road would be rough, and why should I
complain? It seems to me at times that I must give way to my lower self
and let the work slip off my back on others perhaps more tired than
myself. But I have a tender, kind Father in heaven who tells me that my
way is right. I have very little to uphold me in this work away from my
friends. My happy moments are those which I spend with my Bible during
my night watches, or thinking of happy days gone by, or building me
air-castles for days to come. I am happy, too, when I read the little
verse written in the front of my Testament, and so thankful for the
power to understand it:
"So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, 'Thou must,'
The youth replies, 'I can.'"
Yet there are those who insist that it is the duty of one whose lot is
hard to be morose and sad; that by covering his sadness with the
gladness of service he is making a cheat of himself! In verse a writer
with insight has pilloried such critics:
"He went so blithely on his way,
The way men call the way of life,
That good folks who had stopped to pray,
Shaking their heads, were wont to say,
It was not right to be so gay
Upon that weary road of strife.
"He whistled as he went, and still
He bore the young where streams were deep,
He helped the feeble up the hill,
He seemed to go with heart athrill,
Careless of deed and wild of will--
He whistled, that he might not weep."
MAKING LITTLE THINGS COUNT
There are people who spend so much time looking for the large,
spectacular opportunities for serving others, that they pass by as
unworthy of notice the opportunities for doing what seem to be little
kindnesses. Fortunately, however, there are people who are so taken up
with rendering what they call little services, that they have no time to
worry because the big opportunities do not come their way.
A magazine writer tells of one of these doers of simple kindnesses:
"I was the shabbiest girl in the office," she says. "It was no one's
fault and no one's shame that we were poor. I had intelligence enough to
know that. I knew, too, what a sacrifice mother had made to pay for my
tuition at business school. Still, the knowledge of my shabby clothes
forced itself upon me, particularly my old black skirt! Mother had
cleaned it and pressed it and cleaned it, but it seemed bent with age,
and all the office girls looked so fresh and pretty in their trim
business suits. I imagined all the first morning that they were pitying
me and felt them looking at my shabbiness, and during noon hour I was so
miserable; but when I went back next morning, I noticed that one of the
girls had on nearly as old clothes as I did, and she was so nice to me
that I fancied she was glad I had come because of our mutual poverty.
Not until after I earned enough money to buy some suitable, nice clothes
did I realize that the 'poor girl,' as I thought her, had drifted back
into the prettiest, most tasteful clothes worn by any of the girls. She
had only borne me company at a most trying time, and she knew, because
her fellow-workers all admired her, that the little object lesson would
keep them from hurting my feelings. The day has come now when new
clothes are usual, when I may even achieve an appearance that is known
as 'stylish.' But in my office, when a girl comes in shabby, painfully
sensitive, as I was, I 'bear her company' until the better times shall
From another observer comes the story of the simple deeds of kindness
done by a company of young people in Brooklyn to a young woman married
to an elderly and uncongenial man. She showed symptoms of taking her
life into her own hands. She felt that the world owed her happiness, and
she was tempted to take it anywhere it might be found, especially in one
undesirable direction. She was poor and outside of many ordinary social
pleasures. The word was passed along the line that Mrs. D... needed
especial attention and friendliness shown her. Immediately one girl,
whose notice was in itself a compliment, invited her to attend a concert
with her. Two more volunteered to see her home from Sunday school, and
call for her as well. Books were loaned her, calls made, and in brief, a
rope of warm sturdy hands steadying her over the hard place in the road,
until she found herself and settled down to the duty she was on the
point of leaving forever.
The widespread hunger for such little kindnesses was shown one day when
a New York man accosted in Central Park a poor foreigner, who could
speak little English. Noting that the man looked dejected, he offered
him his hand. Then he asked the man if he was in need. "No, I don't need
money," was the reply; "I was just hungry for a handshake." Blessings on
those who are not too busy to think of the poor who are hungry for the
little services they can render.
If they could know the ultimate effect of some of their deeds, these
would not always seem insignificant. The man who is always on the
lookout for little chances for service is more apt to perform services
that are of great importance, than the man who spends his time dreaming
of big things he will do some day.
DID HE GO TOO FAR?
When an urgent call went out from Washington for physicians to go to
France for hospital work among the men of the American Expeditionary
Force, a specialist in a city of the Middle West decided to respond. Of
course some of his friends told him he was foolish; they urged that he
was needed for service at home. "Let doctors go who can be spared
better than you," they said. "Think of the great work you are
doing--work that will be more than ever necessary because thousands of
others are leaving practices and going to the Front. Think of your
past--how you worked your way through medical college at cost of severe
toil; think of your family and the increasing demands on you; think of
the future--what will become of your lucrative practice?"
The specialist did think of these things; he had delayed decision
because the arguments had presented themselves forcibly to his own mind.
At last, however, his mind was made up. He would go to France. He would
leave his patients in charge of two capable friends who would do
everything possible to turn over, on the return of the volunteer, the
lucrative office practice built up through many years.
He spent six months in camp with the members of the hospital unit of
which he was given charge. Just before he went "over there" a friend
said to him:
"It is fortunate that your practice is to be cared for so efficiently."
"What's that?" was the reply. "Oh, you mean the colleagues who took over
my patients? They, too, have enlisted, and will soon be going abroad."
"But what of your $35,000 income?" was the dismayed rejoinder. "Surely
you haven't the courage to give up all that!"
The major snapped his fingers, and said, with a smile, "That for the
practice! It is my business to respond to my country's call. Don't talk
of the sacrifice. What if I do have to start all over again when I come
home? Just now I don't have to think about that."
This incident came to mind when reading in a popular weekly a telling
story, camouflaged as to names, location and business, but recorded as
the experience of a captain of industry. The story made him a
manufacturer of shoes who, in the beginning, was rejoicing that his
plants were running full time, turning out so many shoes for the regular
trade that the profits of the year were bound to be tremendous. With
others, he heard the plea of the Government for shoes for the soldiers.
Carefully he assured himself that he would not need to respond; there
were many manufacturers who would rush headlong for government
contracts. When he learned that there were not enough volunteers he felt
uncomfortable. Then, to his relief, he was asked to take the
chairmanship of the subcommittee on shoes of the State Council of
"I'll do it!" he decided. "That will let me out honorably. As chairman I
shall be criticized if I bid on the contracts myself."
Of course he learned his mistake. At length he decided to turn over one
of his six plants to government contracts. The decision made him feel
quite virtuous. Content was his only a little while, however. So he
decided to devote another plant. Yet when he made his figures he thought
he would add five cents a pair to his bid, as an extra margin of safety.
Again his calculations were upset when his son told him that he had
"That wasn't necessary," the father said. "What made you do it?"
"Why, dad, you know you'd expect me to feel ashamed if you didn't do
just every little thing you could in a business way to help win this
war--if you held back a shoe that would help the Government or charged a
cent more than you ought to. You furnish the shoes and I'll furnish the
Of course more had to be done after that. Soon half the plants were
enlisted for the country. Surely nothing more could be asked than that
he should go fifty-fifty, half for the country and half for himself.
The remainder of the story can be imagined--in one form it was lived out
in the experience of millions. "Why don't you have done with that
half-way patriotism?" came a voice that he could not silence.
The battle between Patriotism and Private Profits was decided
gloriously--in the only possible manner. Away with fifty per cent.
patriotism! Every one of the plants was put on Government orders.
Naturally there were those who asked, "Was such a sacrifice necessary?"
But the reply was convincing.
That is the question that has been asked of Christians ever since the
day when Christ said to Peter and Andrew, "Follow me." Our hearts are
stirred by the simple record of what followed: "Straightway they left
their nets,"--their livelihood, their associates, their families, their
position in the world, everything--"and followed Him." The question was
put to Prince Gallitzin when he renounced title and fortune and went to
the mountains of Pennsylvania to make a home for some of his oppressed
Russian countrymen. The words were hurled at the son of a wealthy
English brewer, because he decided that if he would obey Christ fully
he must renounce the source of his wealth as well as the money that had
been made in an unrighteous business. The inquiry was heard many times
by Matthias W. Baldwin, the builder of Old Ironsides and founder of the
Baldwin Locomotive Works, when he gave up the making of jewelry because
he thought that, as a Christian man, he ought to make his talents count
for something more worth-while, and later on when he insisted on
borrowing from the banks in time of financial panic to pay his pledges
to Christian work.
Still the query persists, as it will persist long as the world stands.
You have heard it yourself, if you, like Caleb of old, are trying to
follow God wholly. "Was the sacrifice necessary?"
Beware of the question, for it is a temptation to slack service, though
often spoken by one who would show himself a friend. Necessary? Of
course. Isn't it involved in courageous following of Christ?