"I was appointed to lecture in a town in Great Britain six miles from the
railway," said John B. Gough, and a man drove me in a fly from the station to
the town. I noticed that he sat leaning forward in an awkward manner, with his
face close to the glass of the window. Soon he folded a handkerchief and tied it
round his neck. I asked him if he was cold. "No, sir." Then he placed the
handkerchief round his face. I asked him if he bad the toothache. "No, sir," was
the reply. Still he sat leaning forward. At last I said, "Will you please tell
me why you sit leaning forward that way with a handkerchief round your neck if
you are not cold and have no toothache?" He said very quietly, "The window of
the carriage is broke, and the wind is cold, and I am trying to keep it from
you." I said, in surprise, you are not putting your face to that broken pane to
keep the wind from me, are you?" "Yes, Sir, I am." "Why do you do that?" "God
bless you, sir! I owe everything I have in the world to you." "But I never saw
you before." "No, sir; but I have seen you. I was a ballad-singer once. I used
to go round with a half-starved baby in my arms for charity, and a draggled wife
at my heels half the time, with her eyes blackened; and I went to hear you in
Edinburgh, and you told me I was a man; and when I went out of that house I
said, 'By the help of God, I'll be a man;' and now I've a happy wife and a
comfortable home. God bless you, sir! I would stick my head in any hole under
the heavens if it would do you any good."
He indeed is getting the most out of life who does most to elevate
mankind. How happy were those Little Sisters of the Poor at Tours, who took
scissors to divide their last remnant of bed clothing with an old woman who came
to them at night, craving hospitality! And how happy was that American
schoolteacher who gave up the best room in the house, which she had engaged long
before the season opened, at a mountain sanatorium, during the late war, taking
instead of it the poorest room in the house, that she might give good quarters
to a soldier just out of his camp hospital!
"Teach self-denial," said Walter Scott, "and make its practice
pleasurable, and you create for the world a destiny more sublime than ever
issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer."
Yet how many there are, ready to make some great sacrifice, who neglect
those little acts of kindness which make so many lives brighter and happier.
"I say, Jim, it's the first time I ever had anybody ask my pardon, and it
kind o' took me off my feet." A young lady had knocked him down in hastily
turning a corner. She stopped and said to the ragged crossing-boy: "I beg your
pardon, my little fellow; I am very sorry I ran against you." He took off the
piece of a cap he had on his skull, made a low bow, and said with a broad smile:
"You have my pardon, Miss, and welcome; and the next time you run again me, you
can knock me clean down and I won't say a word.
One of the greatest mistakes of life is to save our smiles and pleasant
words and sympathy for those of "our set," or for those not now with us, and for
other times than the present.
"If a word or two will render a man happy," said a Frenchman, "he must be
a wretch indeed who will not give it. It is like lighting another man's candle
with our own, which loses none of its brilliancy by what the other gains."
Sydney Smith recommends us to make at least one person happy every day:
"Take ten years, and you will make thirty-six hundred and fifty persons happy;
or brighten a small town by your contribution to the fund of general joy. One
who is cheerful is permanently useful.
Dr. Raffles once said: "I have made it a rule never to be with a person
ten minutes without trying to make him happier." It was a remark of Dr. Dwight,
that "one who makes a little child happier for half an hour is a fellow-worker
A little boy said to his mother: "I couldn't make little sister happy, I
don't know how I could fix it. But I made myself happy trying to make her
happy." "I make Jim happy, and he laughs," said another boy, speaking of his
invalid brother; "and that makes me happy, and I laugh."
There was once a king who loved his little boy very much, and took a
great deal of pains to please him. So he gave him a pony to ride, beautiful
rooms to live in, pictures, books, toy without number, teachers, companions, and
every thing that money could buy or ingenuity devise; but for all this, the
young prince was unhappy. He wore a frown wherever he went, and was always
wishing for something he did not have. At length a magician came to the court.
He saw the scowl on the boy's face, and said to the king: "I can make your son
happy, and turn his frowns into smiles, but you must pay me a great price for
telling him this secret." "All right," said the king; "whatever you ask I will
give. The magician took the boy into a private room. He wrote something with a
white substance on a piece of paper. He gave the boy a candle and told him to
light it and hold it under the paper, and then see what he could read. Then the
magician went away. The boy did as he had been told, and the white letters
turned into a beautiful blue. They formed these words: "Do a kindness to some
one every day." The prince followed the advice, and became the happiest boy in
"Happiness," says one writer, "is a mosaic, composed of many smaller
stones." It is the little acts of kindness, the little courtesies, the
disposition to be accommodating, to be helpful, to be sympathetic, to be
unselfish, to be careful not to wound the feelings, not to expose sore spots, to
be charitable of the weakness of others, to be considerate, - these are the
little things which, added up at night, are found to be the secret of a happy
day. How much greater are all these than one great act of noteworthy goodness
once a year! Our lives are made up of trifles; emergencies rarely occur. "Little
things, unimportant events, experiences so small as to scarcely leave a trace
behind, make up the sum-total of life." And the one great thing in life is to do
a little good to every one we meet. Ready sympathy, a quick eye, and a little
tact, are all that are needed.
This point is happily illustrated by this report of an incident upon a
train from Providence to Boston. A lady was caring for her father, whose mental
faculties were weakened by age. He imagined that some imperative duty called on
him to leave the swift-moving train, and his daughter could not quiet him. Just
then she noticed a large man watching them over the top of his paper. As soon as
he caught her eye, he rose and crossed quickly to her.
"I beg your pardon, you are in trouble. May I help you?"
She explained the situation to him.
"What is your father's name?" he asked.
She told him; and then with an encouraging smile, she spoke to her
venerable father who was sitting immediately in front of her. The next moment
the large man turned over the seat, and leaning toward the troubled old man, he
addressed him by name, shook hands with him cordially, and engaged him in a
conversation so interesting and so cleverly arranged to keep his mind occupied
that the old gentleman forgot his need to leave the train, and did not think of
it again until they were in Boston. There the stranger put the lady and her
charge into a carriage, received her assurance that she felt perfectly safe, and
was about to close the carriage door, when she remembered that she had felt so
safe in the keeping of this noble looking man that she, had not even asked his
name. Hastily putting her hand against the door, she said: "Pardon me, but you
have rendered me such service, may I not know whom I am thanking?" The big man
smiled as he turned away: -
"What a gift it is," said Beecher, who was the great preacher of
cheerfulness, "to make all men better and happier without knowing it! We do not
suppose that flowers know how sweet they are. These roses and carnations have
made me happy for a day. Yet they stand huddled together in my pitcher, without
seeming to know my thoughts of them, or the gracious world they are doing. And
how much more is it, to have a disposition that carries with it involuntarily
sweetness, calmness, courage, hope, and happiness. Yet this is the portion of
good nature in a large-minded, strong-natured man. When it has made him happy,
it has scarcely begun its office. God sends a natural heart-singer - a man whose
nature is large and luminous, and who, by his very carriage and spontaneous
actions, calms, cheers, and helps his fellows. God bless him, for he blesses
everybody!" This is just what Mr. Beecher would have said about Phillips Brooks.
And what better can be said than to compare the heart's good cheer to a
floral offering? Are not flowers appropriate gifts to persons of all ages, in
any conceivable circumstances in which they are placed? So the heart's good
cheer and deeds of kindness are always acceptable to children and youth, to busy
men and women, to the aged, and to a world of invalids.
"Thus live and die, O man immortal," says Dr. Chalmers. "Live for
something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue, which the storms
of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy, on the
hearts of those who come in contact with you, and you will never be forgotten.
Good deeds will shine as brightly on earth as the stars of heaven."
What is needed to round out human happiness is a well-balanced life. Not
ease, not pleasure, not happiness, but a man, Nature is after. "There is," says
Robert Waters, no success without honour; no happiness without a clear
conscience; no use in living at all if only for one's self. It is not at all
necessary for you to make a fortune, but it is necessary, absolutely necessary,
that you should become a fair dealing, honourable, useful man, radiating
goodness and cheerfulness wherever you go, and making your life a blessing."
"When a man does not find repose in himself," says a French proverb, "it
is vain for him to seek it elsewhere." Happy is he who has no sense of discord
with the harmony of the universe, who is open to the voices of nature and of the
spiritual realm, and who sees the light that never was on sea or land. Such a
life can but give expression to its inward harmony. Every pure and healthy
thought, every noble aspiration for the good and the true, every longing of the
heart for a higher and better life, every lofty purpose and unselfish endeavour,
makes the human spirit stronger, more harmonious, and more beautiful.
It is this alone that gives a self-centred confidence in one's heaven-aided powers, and a high-minded cheerfulness, like that of a celestial spirit. It is this, which an old writer has called the paradise of a good conscience.
"My body must walk the earth," said an ancient poet, "but I can put wings
on my soul and plumes to my hardest thought." The splendours and symphonies and
the ecstasies of a higher world are with us now in the rudimentary organs of eye
and ear and heart. Much we have to do, much we have to love, much we have to
hope for; and our "joy is the grace we say to God." "When I think upon God."
said Haydn to Carpani, my heart is so full of joy that the notes leap from my
Says Gibbons: -