The University of Hard Knocks
The School That Completes Our Education
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son"—Revelation 21:7.
"Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And thus our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks Sermons in stones, and good in everything." Shakespeare
Why It Is Printed
MORE than a million people have sat in audiences in all parts of the United States and have listened to "The University of Hard Knocks." It has been delivered to date more than twenty-five hundred times upon lyceum courses, at chautauquas, teachers' institutes, club gatherings, conventions and before various other kinds of audiences. Ralph Parlette is kept busy year after year lecturing, because his lectures deal with universal human experience.
"Can I get the lecture in book form?" That continuous question from audiences brought out this book in response. Here is the overflow of many deliveries.
"What is written here is not the way I would write it, were I writing a book," says Ralph Parlette. "It is the way I say it. The lecture took this unconscious colloquial form before audiences. An audience makes a lecture, if the lecture survives. I wish I could shake the hand of every person who has sat in my audiences. And I wish I could tell the lecture committees of America how I appreciate the vast amount of altruistic work they have done in bringing the audiences of America together. For lecture audiences are not drawn together, they are pushed together."
The warm reception given "The University of Hard Knocks" by the public, has encouraged the publishers to put more of Mr. Parlette's lectures into book form, "Big Business" and "Pockets and Paradises" are now in preparation as this, the third edition of "The University of Hard Knocks" comes from the press.
SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS—The lecturer the delivery wagon—The sorghum barrel—Audience must have place to put lecture—Why so many words
The University of Hard Knocks
I. THE BOOKS ARE BUMPS—Every bump a lesson—Why the two kinds of bumps—Description of University—"Sweet are the uses of Adversity"—Why children are not interested
II. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDLESS KNOCKS, the bumps that we bump into—Getting the coffee-pot—Teaching a wilful child—Bumps make us "stop, look, listen"—Blind man learns with one bump—Going up requires effort—Prodigals must be bumped—The fly and the sticky fly-paper—"Removed" and "knocked out"
III. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDFUL KNOCKS, the bumps that bump into us—Our sorrows and disappointments—How the piano was made—How the "red mud" becomes razor-blades—The world our mirror—The cripple taught by the bumps—Every bump brings a blessing—You are never down and out
IV. "SHAKE THE BARREL"—How we decide our destinies—Why the big ones shake up and the little ones shake down—The barrel of life sorting people—How we hold our places, go down, go up—Good luck and bad luck—The girl who went up—The man who went down—The fatal rattle—We must get ready to get—Testimonials and press notices—You cannot uplift people with derrick—No laws can equalize—Help people to help themselves—We cannot get things till we get ready for them
V. GOING UP—How we become great—We must get inside greatness—There is no top—We make ourselves great by service—the first step at hand—All can be greatest—Where to find great people—A glimpse of Gunsaulus
VI. THE PROBLEM OF "PREPAREDNESS"—Preparing children for life—Most "advantages" are disadvantages—Buying education for children—The story of "Gussie" and "Bill Whackem"—Schools and books only give better tools for service—"Hard knocks" graduates—Menace of America not swollen fortunes but shrunken souls—Children must have struggle to get strength—Not packhorse work—Helping the turkeys killed them—the happiness of work we love—Amusement drunkards—Lure of the city—Strong men from the country—Must save the home towns—A school of struggle—New School experiment
VII. THE SALVATION OF A "SUCKER"—You can't get something for nothing—The fiddle and the tuning—How we know things—Trimmed at the shell game—My "fool drawer"—Getting "selected to receive 1,000 per cent"—You must earn what you own—Commencement orations—My maiden sermon—The books that live have been lived—Singer must live songs—Successful songs written from experience—Theory and practice—Tuning the strings of life
VIII. LOOKING BACKWARD—Memories of the price we pay—My first school teaching—Loaning the deacon my money—Calling the roll of my schoolmates—At the grave of the boy I had envied—Why Ben Hur won the chariot race—Pulling on the oar
IX. GO ON SOUTH!—The book in the running brook—The Mississippi keeps on going south and growing greater—We generally start well, but stop—Few go on south—The plague of incompetents—Today our best day, tomorrow to be better—Birthdays are promotions—I am just beginning—Bernhardt, Davis, Edison—Moses begins at eighty—Too busy to bury—Sympathy for the "sob squad"—Child sees worst days, not best—Waiting for the second table—Better days on south—Overcoming obstacles develops power—Go on south from principle, not praise—Doing duty for the joy of it—Becoming the "Father of Waters"—Go on south forever!
X. GOING UP LIFE'S MOUNTAIN—The defeats that are victories—Climbing Mount Lowe—Getting above the clouds into the sunshine—Each day we rise to larger vision—Getting above the night into the eternal day—Going south is going upward
Some Preliminary Remarks
LADIES and Gentlemen:
I do not want to be seen in this lecture. I want to be heard. I am only the delivery wagon. When the delivery wagon comes to your house, you are not much interested in how it looks; you are interested in the goods it brings you. You know some very good goods are sometimes delivered to you in some very poor delivery wagons.
So in this lecture, please do not pay any attention to the delivery wagon—how much it squeaks and wheezes and rattles and wabbles. Do not pay much attention to the wrappings and strings. Get inside to the goods.
Really, I believe the goods are good. I believe I am to recite to you some of the multiplication table of life—not mine, not yours alone, but everybody's.
Can Only Pull the Plug!
Every audience has a different temperature, and that makes a lecture go differently before every audience. The kind of an audience is just as important as the kind of a lecture. A cold audience will make a good lecture poor, while a warm audience will make a poor lecture good.
Let me illustrate:
When I was a boy we had a barrel of sorghum in the woodshed. When mother wanted to make ginger-bread or cookies, she would send me to the woodshed to get a bucket of sorghum from that barrel.
Some warm September day I would pull the plug from the barrel and the sorghum would fairly squirt into my bucket. Later in the fall when it was colder, I would pull the plug but the sorghum would not squirt. It would come out slowly and reluctantly, so that I would have to wait a long while to get a little sorghum. And on some real cold winter day I would pull the plug, but the sorghum would not run at all. It would just look out at me.
I discovered it was the temperature.
I have brought a barrel of sorghum to this audience. The name of the sorghum is "The University of Hard Knocks." I can only pull the plug. I cannot make it run. That will depend upon the temperature of this audience. You can have all you want of it, but to get it to running freely, you will have to warm up.
Did You Bring a Bucket?
No matter how the sorghum runs, you have to have a bucket to get it. How much any one gets out of a lecture depends also upon the size of the bucket he brings to get it in. A big bucket can get filled at a very small stream. A little bucket gets little at the greatest stream. With no bucket you can get nothing at Niagara.
That often explains why one person says a lecture is great, while the next person says he got nothing out of it.
What It's All About
Here is a great mass of words and sentences and pictures to express two or three simple little ideas of life, that our education is our growing up from the Finite to the Infinite, and that it is done by our own personal overcoming, and that we never finish it.
Have you noticed that no sentence, nor a million sentences, can bound life? Have you noticed that every statement does not quite cover it? No statement, no library, can tell all about life. No success rule can alone solve the problem. You must average it all and struggle up to a higher vision.
We are told that the stomach needs bulk as well as nutriment. It would not prosper with the necessary elements in their condensed form. So abstract truths in their lowest terms do not always promote mental digestion like more bulk in the way of pictures and discussions of these truths. Here is bulk as well as nutriment.
If you get the feeling that the first personal pronoun is being overworked, I remind you that this is more a confession than a lecture. You cannot confess without referring to the confesser.
To Everybody in My Audience
I like you because I am like you.
I believe in you because I believe in myself. We are all one family. I believe in your Inside, not in your Outside, whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are.
I believe in the Angel of Good inside every block of human marble. I believe it must be carved out in The University of Hard Knocks.
I believe all this pride, vanity, selfishness, self-righteousness, hypocrisy and human frailty are the Outside that must be chipped away.
I believe the Hard Knocks cannot injure the Angel, but can only reveal it.
I hope you are getting your Hard Knocks.
I care little about your glorious or inglorious past. I care little about your present. I care much about your future for that is to see more of the Angel in you.
The University of Hard Knocks
The Books Are Bumps
THE greatest school is the University of Hard Knocks. Its books are bumps.
Every bump is a lesson. If we learn the lesson with one bump, we do not get that bump again. We do not need it. We have traveled past it. They do not waste the bumps. We get promoted to the next bump.
But if we are "naturally bright," or there is something else the matter with us, so that we do not learn the lesson of the bump we have just gotten, then that bump must come back and bump us again.
Some of us learn to go forward with a few bumps, but most of us are "naturally bright" and have to be pulverized.
The tuition in the University of Hard Knocks is not free. Experience is the dearest teacher in the world. Most of us spend our lives in the A-B-C's of getting started.
We matriculate in the cradle.
We never graduate. When we stop learning we are due for another bump.
There are two kinds of people—wise people and fools. The fools are the people who think they have graduated.
The playground is all of God's universe.
The university colors are black and blue.
The yell is "ouch" repeated ad lib.
The Need of the Bumps
When I was thirteen I knew a great deal more than I do now. There was a sentence in my grammar that disgusted me. It was by some foreigner I had never met. His name was Shakespeare. It was this:
"Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a priceless jewel in its head; And thus our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
"Tongues in trees," I thought. "Trees can't talk! That man is crazy. Books in running brooks! Why nobody never puts no books in no running brooks. They'd get wet. And that sermons in stones! They get preachers to preach sermons, and they build houses out of stones."
I was sorry for Shakespeare—when I was thirteen.
But I am happy today that I have traveled a little farther. I am happy that I have begun to learn the lessons from the bumps. I am happy that I am learning the sweet tho painful lessons of the University of Adversity. I am happy that I am beginning to listen. For as I learn to listen, I hear every tree speaking, every stone preaching and every running brook the unfolding of a book.
Children, I fear you will not be greatly interested in what is to follow. Perhaps you are "naturally bright" and feel sorry for Shakespeare.
I was not interested when father and mother told me these things. I knew they meant all right, but the world had moved since they were young, and now two and two made seven, because we lived so much faster.
It is so hard to tell young people anything. They know better. So they have to get bumped just where we got bumped, to learn that two and two always makes four, and "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
But if you will remember some of these things, they will feel like poultices by and by when the bumps come.
The Two Colleges
As we get bumped and battered on life's pathway, we discover we get two kinds of bumps—bumps that we need and bumps that we do not need.
Bumps that we bump into and bumps that bump into us.
We discover, in other words, that The University of Hard Knocks has two colleges—The College of Needless Knocks and The College of Needful Knocks.
We attend both colleges.
The College of Needless Knocks
The Bumps That We Bump Into
NEARLY all the bumps we get are Needless Knocks.
There comes a vivid memory of one of my early Needless Knocks as I say that. It was back at the time when I was trying to run our home to suit myself. I sat in the highest chair in the family circle. I was three years old and ready to graduate.
That day they had the little joy and sunshine of the family in his high-chair throne right up beside the dinner table. The coffee-pot was within grabbing distance.
I became enamored with that coffee-pot. I decided I needed that coffee-pot in my business. I reached over to get the coffee-pot. Then I discovered a woman beside me, my mother. She was the most meddlesome woman I had ever known. I had not tried to do one thing in three years that that woman had not meddled into.
And that day when I wanted the coffee-pot—I did want it. Nobody knows how I desired that coffee-pot. "One thing thou lackest," a coffee-pot—I was reaching over to get it, that woman said, "Don't touch that!"
The longer I thought about it the more angry I became. What right has that woman to meddle into my affairs all the time? I have stood this petticoat tyranny three years, and it is time to stop it!
I stopped it. I got the coffee-pot. I know I got the coffee-pot. I got it unanimously. I know when I got it and I also know where I got it. I got about a gallon of the reddest, hottest coffee a bad boy ever spilled over himself.
O-o-o-o-o-o! I can feel it yet!
There were weeks after that when I was upholstered. They put applebutter on me—and coal oil and white-of-an-egg and starch and anything else the neighbors could think of. They would bring it over and rub it on the little joy and sunshine of the family, who had gotten temporarily eclipsed.
Teaching a Wilful Child
You see, my mother's way was to tell me and then let me do as I pleased. She told me not to get the coffee-pot and then let me get it, knowing that it would burn me. She would say, "Don't." Then she would go on with her knitting and let me do as I pleased.
Why don't mothers knit today?
Mother would say, "Don't fall in the well." I could go and jump in the well after that and she would not look at me. I do not argue that this is the way to raise children, but I insist that this was the most kind and effective way to rear one stubborn boy I know of. The neighbors and the ladies' aid society often said my mother was cruel with that angel child. But the neighbors did not know what kind of an insect mother was trying to raise. Mother did know. She knew how stubborn and self-willed I was. It came from father's "side of the house."
Mother knew that to argue with me was to flatter me. Tell me, serve notice upon me, and then let me go ahead and get my coffee-pot. That was the quickest and kindest way to teach me.
I learned very quickly that if I did not hear mother, and heed, a coffee-pot would spill upon me. I cannot remember when I disobeyed my mother that a coffee-pot of some kind did not spill upon me, and I got my blisters. Mother did not inflict them. Mother was not much of an inflicter. Father attended to that in the laboratory behind the parsonage.
"Stop, Look, Listen"
And thru the bumps we learn that The College of Needless Knocks runs on the same plan. The Voice of Wisdom says to each of us, "Child of humanity, do right, walk in the right path. You will be wiser and happier." The tongues in the trees, the books in the running brooks and the sermons in the stones all repeat it.
But we are not compelled to walk in the right path. We are free im-moral agents.
We get off the right path. We go down forbidden paths. They seem easier and more attractive. It is so easy to go downward. We slide downward, but we have to make effort to go upward.
Anything that goes downward will run itself. Anything that goes upward has to be pushed.
And going down the wrong path, we get bumped harder and harder until we listen.
We are lucky if we learn the lesson with one bump. We are unlucky when we get bumped twice in the same place, for it means we are making no progress.
When we are bumped, we should "stop, look, listen." "Safety first!"
One time I paid a seeress two dollars to look into my honest palm. She said, "It hain't your fault. You wasn't born right. You was born under an unlucky star." You don't know how that comforted me. It wasn't my fault—all my bumps and coffee-pots! I was just unlucky and it had to be.
How I had to be bumped to learn better! Now when I get bumped I try to learn the lesson of the bump and find the right path, so that when I see that bump coming again I can say, "Excuse me; it hath a familiar look," and dodge it.
The seeress is the soothing syrup for mental infants.
Blind Man's Fine Sight
The other day I watched a blind man go down the aisle of the car to get off the train. Did you ever study the walk of a blind man? He "pussyfooted" it along so carefully. He bumped his hand against a seat. Then he did what every blind man does, he lifted his hand higher and didn't bump any more seats.
I looked down my nose. "Ralph Parlette," I said to myself, "when are you going to learn to see as well as that blind man? He learns his lesson with one bump, and you have to go bumping into the same things day after day and wonder why you have so much 'bad luck'!"
Are You Going Up or Down?
Let me repeat, things that go downward will run themselves. Things that go upward have to be pushed. Going upward is overcoming. Notice that churches, schools, lyceums, chautauquas, reform movements—things that go upward—never run themselves. They must be pushed all the time.
And so with our own lives. Real living is conscious effort to go upward to larger life.
If you are making no effort in your life, if you are moving in the line of least resistance, depend upon it you are going downward. Look out for the bumps!
Look over your community. Note the handful of brave, faithful, unselfish souls who are carrying the community burdens and pushing upward. Note the multitude making little or no effort, and even getting in the way of the pushers.
Majorities do not rule. Majorities never have ruled. It is the brave minority of thinking, self-sacrificing people that decides the tomorrow of communities that go upward. Majorities are not willing to make the effort to rule themselves. They are content to drift and be amused and follow false gods that promise something for nothing. They must be led—sometimes driven—by minorities.
People are like sheep. The shepherd can lead them to heaven—or to hell.
Bumping the Prodigals
Human life is the story of the Prodigal Son. We look over the fence of goodness into the mystery of the great unknown world beyond and in that unknown realm we fondly imagine is happiness.
Down the great white way of the world go the million prodigals, seeking happiness where nobody ever found happiness. Their days fill up with disappointment, their vision becomes dulled. They become anaemic feeding upon the husks.
They just must get their coffee-pot!
How they must be bumped to think upon their ways. Every time we do wrong we get a Needless Knock. Every time! We may not always get bumped on the outside, but we always get bumped on the inside. A bump on the conscience is worse than a bump on the "noodle."
"I can do wrong and not get bumped. I have no feelings upon the subject," somebody says, You can? You poor old sinner, you have bumped your conscience numb. That is why you have no feelings on the subject. You have pounded your soul into a jelly. You don't know how badly you are hurt.
How the old devil works day and night to keep people amused and doped so that they will not think upon their ways! How he keeps the music and the dazzle going so they will not see they are bumping themselves!
Consider the Sticky Flypaper
Did you ever watch a fly get his Needless Knocks on the sticky flypaper?
The last thing Mamma Fly said as Johnny went off to the city was, "Remember, son, to stay away from the sticky flypaper. That is where your poor dear father was lost." And Johnny Fly remembers for several minutes. But when he sees all the smart young flies of his set go over to the flypaper, he goes over, too. He gazes down at his face in the stickiness. "Ah! how pretty I am! This sticky flypaper shows me up better than anything at home. What a fine place to skate. Just see how close I can fly over it and not get stuck a bit. Mother is such a silly old worryer. She means all right, of course, but she isn't up-to-date. We young set of modern flies are naturally bright and have so many more advantages. You can't catch us. They were too strict with me back home."
You see Johnny fly back and forth and have the time of his naturally bright young life. Afterwhile, tho, he stubs his toe and lands in the stickiness. "Well, well, how nice this is on the feet, so soft and soothing!"
First he puts one foot down and pulls it out. That is a lot of fun. It shows he is not a prisoner. He is a strong-minded fly. He can quit it or play in it, just as he pleases. After while he puts two feet down in the stickiness. It is harder to pull them out. Then he puts three down and puts down a few more trying to pull them out.
"Really," says Johnny Fly bowing to his comrades also stuck around him, "really, boys, you'll have to excuse me now. Good-bye!" But he doesn't pull loose. He feels tired and he sits down in the sticky flypaper. It is a fine place to stick around. All his young set of flies are around him. He does like the company. They all feel the same way—they can play in the sticky flypaper or let it alone, just as they please, for they are strong-minded flies. They have another drink and sing, "We won't go home till morning."
Johnny may get home, but he will leave a wing or a leg. Most of them stay. They just settle down into the stickiness with sleeping sickness.
The tuition in The College of Needless Knocks is very high indeed!
"Removed" or "Knocked Out"?
The man who goes to jail ought to congratulate himself if he is guilty. It is the man who does not get discovered who is to be pitied, for he must get some more knocks.
The world loves to write resolutions of respect. How often we write, "Whereas, it has pleased an all-wise Providence to remove," when we might reasonably ask whether the victim was "removed" or merely "knocked out."
There is a good deal of suicide charged up to Providence.
The College of Needful Knocks
The Bumps That Bump Into Us
BUT occasionally all of us get bumps that we do not bump into. They bump into us. They are the guideboard knocks that point us to the higher pathway.
You were bumped yesterday or years ago. Maybe the wound has not yet healed. Maybe you think it never will heal. You wondered why you were bumped. Some of you in this audience are just now wondering why.
You were doing right—doing just the best you knew how—and yet some blow came crushing upon you and gave you cruel pain.
It broke your heart. You have had your heart broken. I have had my heart broken more times than I care to talk about now. Your home was darkened, your plans were wrecked, you thought you had nothing more to live for.
I am like you. I have had more trouble than anybody else. I have never known anyone who had not had more trouble than anyone else.
But I am discovering that life only gets good after we have been killed a few times. Each death is a larger birth.
We all must learn, if we have not already learned, that these blows are lessons in The College of Needful Knocks. They point upward to a higher path than we have been traveling.
In other words, we are raw material. You know what raw material is—material that needs more Needful Knocks to make it more useful and valuable.
The clothing we wear, the food we eat, the house we live in, all have to have the Needful Knocks to become useful. And so does humanity need the same preparation for greater usefulness.
I should like to know every person in this audience. But the ones I should most appreciate knowing are the ones who have known the most of these knocks—who have faced the great crises of life and have been tried in the crucibles of affliction. For I am learning that these lives are the gold tried in the fire.
The Sorrows of the Piano
See the piano on this stage? Good evening, Mr. Piano. I am glad to see you. You are so shiny, beautiful, valuable and full of music, if properly treated.
Do you know how you got upon this stage, Mr. Piano? You were bumped here. This is no reflection upon the janitor. You became a piano by the Needful Knocks.
I can see you back in your callow beginnings, when you were just a tree—a tall, green tree. You were green! Only green things grow. Did you get the meaning of that, children? I hope you are green.
There you stood in the forest, a perfectly good, green young tree. You got your lessons, combed your hair, went to Sunday school and were the best young tree you could be.
That is why you were bumped—because you were good! There came a man into the woods with an ax, and he looked for the best trees there to bump. He bumped you—hit you with the ax! How it hurt you! And how unjust it was! He kept on hitting you. "The operation was just terrible." Finally you fell, crushed, broken, bleeding.
It is a very sad story. They took you all bumped and bleeding to the sawmill and they bumped and ripped you more. They cut you in pieces and hammered you day by day.
They did not bump the little, crooked, dissipated, cigaret-stunted trees. They were not worth bumping.
But shake, Mr. Piano. That is why you are on this stage. You were bumped here. All the beauty, harmony and value were bumped into you.
The Sufferings of the Red Mud
One day I was up the Missabe road about a hundred miles north of Duluth, Minnesota, and came to a hole in the ground. It was a big hole—about a half-mile of hole. There were steam-shovels at work throwing out of that hole what I thought was red mud.
"Kind sir, why are they throwing that red mud out of that hole?" I asked a native.
"That hain't red mud. That's iron ore, an' it's the best iron ore in the world."
"What is it worth?"
"It hain't worth nothin' here; that's why they're movin' it away."
There's red mud around every community that "hain't worth nothin'" until you move it—send it to college or somewhere.
Not very long after this, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I saw some of this same red mud. It had been moved over the Great Lakes and the rails to what they call a blast furnace, the technological name of which being The College of Needful Knocks for Red Mud.
I watched this red mud matriculate into a great hopper with limestone, charcoal and other textbooks. Then they corked it up and school began. They roasted it. It is a great thing to be roasted.
When it was done roasting they stopped. Have you noticed that they always stop when anything is done roasting? If we are yet getting roasted, perhaps we are not done!
Then they pulled the plug out of the bottom of the college and held promotion exercises. The red mud squirted out into the sand. It was not red mud now, because it had been roasted. It was a freshman—pig iron, worth more than red mud, because it had been roasted.
Some of the pig iron went into another department, a big teakettle, where it was again roasted, and now it came out a sophomore—steel, worth more than pig iron.
Some of the sophomore steel went up into another grade where it was roasted yet again and rolled thin into a junior. Some of that went on up and up, at every step getting more pounding and roasting and affliction.
It seemed as tho I could hear the suffering red mud crying out, "O, why did they take me away from my happy hole-in-the-ground? Why do they pound me and break my heart? I have been good and faithful. O, why do they roast me? O, I'll never get over this!"
But after they had given it a diploma—a pricemark telling how much it had been roasted—they took it proudly all over the world, labeled "Made in America." They hung it in show windows, they put it in glass cases. Many people admired it and said, "Isn't that fine work!" They paid much money for it now. They paid the most money for what had been roasted the most.
If a ton of that red mud had become watch-springs or razor-blades, the price had gone up into thousands of dollars.
My friends, you and I are the raw material, the green trees, the red mud. The Needful Knocks are necessary to make us serviceable.
Every bump is raising our price. Every bump is disclosing a path to a larger life. The diamond and the chunk of soft coal are exactly the same material, say the chemists. But the diamond has gone to The College of Needful Knocks more than has her crude sister of the coal-scuttle.
There is no human diamond that has not been crystallized in the crucibles of affliction. There is no gold that has not been refined in the fire.
Cripple Taught by Bumps
One evening when I was trying to lecture in a chautauqua tent in Illinois, a crippled woman was wheeled into the tent and brought right down to the foot of the platform. The subject was The University of Hard Knocks. Presently the cripple's face was shining brighter than the footlights.
She knew about the knocks!
Afterwards I went to her. "Little lady, I want to thank you for coming here. I have the feeling that I spoke the words, but you are the lecture itself."
What a smile she gave me! "Yes, I know about the hard knocks," she said. "I have been in pain most of my life. But I have learned all that I know sitting in this chair. I have learned to be patient and kind and loving and brave."
They told me this crippled woman was the sweetest-spirited, best-loved person in the town.
But her mother petulantly interrupted me. She had wheeled the cripple into the tent. She was tall and stately. She was well-gowned. She lived in one of the finest homes in the city. She had everything that money could buy. But her money seemed unable to buy the frown from her face.
"Mr. Lecture Man," she said, "why is everybody interested in my daughter and nobody interested in me? Why is my daughter happy and why am I not happy? My daughter is always happy and she hasn't a single thing to make her happy. I am not happy. I have not been happy for years. Why am I not happy?"
What would you have said? Just on the spur of the moment—I said, "Madam, I don't want to be unkind, but I really think the reason you are not happy is that you haven't been bumped enough."
I discover when I am unhappy and selfish and people don't use me right, I need another bump.
The cripple girl had traveled ahead of her jealous mother. For selfishness cripples us more than paralysis.
Schools of Sympathy
When I see a long row of cots in a hospital or sanitarium, I want to congratulate the patients lying there. They are learning the precious lessons of patience, sympathy, love, faith and courage. They are getting the education in the humanities the world needs more than tables of logarithms. Only those who have suffered can sympathize. They are to become a precious part of our population. The world needs them more than libraries and foundations.
The Silver Lining
There is no backward step in life. Whatever experiences come to us are truly new chapters of our education if we are willing to learn them.
We think this is true of the good things that come to us, but we do not want to think so of the bad things. Yet we grow more in lean years than in fat years. In fat years we put it in our pockets. In lean years we put it in our hearts. Material and spiritual prosperity do not often travel hand-in-hand. When we become materially very prosperous, so many of us begin to say, "Is not this Babylon that I have builded?" And about that time there comes some handwriting on the wall and a bump to save us.
Think of what might happen to you today. Your home might burn. We don't want your home to burn, but somebody's home is burning just now. A conflagration might sweep your town from the map. Your business might wreck. Your fortune might be swept away. Your good name might be tarnished. Bereavement might take from you the one you love most.
You would never know how many real friends you have until then. But look out! Some of your friends would say, "I am so sorry for you. You are down and out." Do not believe that you are down and out, for it is not true. The old enemy of humanity wants you to believe you are down and out. He wants you to sympathize with yourself. You are never down and out!
The truth is, another chapter of your real education has been opened. Will you read the lesson of the Needful Knocks?
A great conflagration, a cyclone, a railroad wreck, an epidemic or other public disaster brings sympathy, bravery, brotherhood and love in its wake.
There is a silver lining to every hard knocks cloud.
Out of the trenches of the Great War come nations chastened by sacrifice and purged of their dross.
"Shake The Barrel"
How We Decide Our Destinies
NOW as we learn the lessons of the Needless and the Needful Knocks, we get wisdom, understanding, happiness, strength, success and greatness. We go up in life. We become educated. Let me bring you a picture of it.
One day the train stopped at a station to take water. Beside the track was a grocery with a row of barrels of apples in front. There was one barrel full of big, red, fat apples. I rushed over and got a sack of the big, red, fat apples. Later as the train was under way, I looked in the sack and discovered there was not a big, red, fat apple there.
All I could figure out was that there was only one layer of the big, red, fat apples on the top, and the groceryman, not desiring to spoil his sign, had reached down under the top layer. He must have reached to the bottom, for he gave me the worst mess of runts and windfalls I ever saw in one sack. The things I said about the grocery business must have kept the recording angel busy.
Then I calmed down. Did the groceryman do that on purpose? Does the groceryman ever put the big apples on top and the little ones down underneath?
Do you? Is there a groceryman in the audience?
Man of sorrows, you have been slandered. It never occurred to me until that day on the train that the groceryman does not put the big ones on top and the little ones down underneath. He does not need to do it. It does itself. It is the shaking of the barrel that pushes the big ones up and the little ones down.
Shake to Their Places
You laugh? You don't believe that? Maybe your roads are so good and smooth that things do not shake on the road to town. But back in the Black Swamp of Ohio we had corduroy roads. Did you ever see a corduroy road? It was a layer of logs in the mud. Riding over it was the poetry of motion! The wagon "hit the high spots." And as I hauled a wagon-bed full of apples to the cider-mill over a corduroy road, the apples sorted out by the jolting. The big apples would try to get to the top. The little, runty apples would try to hold a mass meeting at the bottom.
I saw that for thirty years before I saw it. Did you ever notice how long you have to see most things before you see them? I saw that when I played marbles. The big marbles would shake to the top of my pocket and the little ones would rattle down to the bottom.
You children try that tomorrow. Do not wait thirty years to learn that the big ones shake up and the little ones shake down. Put some big ones and some little things of about the same density in a box or other container and shake them. You will see the larger things shake upward and the smaller shake downward. You will see every thing shake to the place its size determines. A little larger one shakes a little higher, and a little smaller one a little lower.
When things find their place, you can shake on till doomsday, but you cannot change the place of one of the objects.
Mix them up again and shake. Watch them all shake back as they were before, the largest on top and the smallest at the bottom.
Lectures in Cans
At this place the lecturer exhibits a glass jar more than half-filled with small white beans and a few walnuts.
Let us try that right on the platform. Here is a glass jar and inside of it you see two sizes of objects—a lot of little white beans and some walnuts. You will pardon me for bringing such a simple and crude apparatus before you in a lecture, but I ask your forbearance. I am discovering that we can hear faster thru the eye than thru the ear. I want to make this so vivid that you will never forget it, and I do not want these young people to live thirty years before they see it.
If there are sermons in stones, there must be lectures in cans. This is a canned lecture. Let the can talk to you awhile.
You note as I shake the jar the little beans quickly settle down and the big walnuts shake up. Not one bean asks, "Which way do I go?" Not one walnut asks, "Which way do I go?" Each one automatically goes the right way. The little ones go down and the big ones go up.
Note that I mix them all up and then shake. Note that they arrange themselves just as they were before.
Suppose those objects could talk. I think I hear that littlest bean down in the bottom saying, "Help me! Help me! I am so unfortunate and low down. I never had no chance like them big ones up there. Help me up."
I say, "Yes, you little bean, I'll help you." So I lift him up to the top. See! I have boosted him. I have uplifted him.
See, the can shakes. Back to the bottom shakes the little bean. And I hear him say, "King's ex! I slipped. Try that again and I'll stay on top." So I put him back again on top.
The can shakes. The little bean again shakes back to the bottom. He is too small to stay up. He cannot stand prosperity.
Then I hear Little Bean say, "Well, if I cannot get to the top, you make them big ones come down. Give every one an equal chance."
So I say, "Yes, sir, Little Bean. Here, you big ones on top, get down. You Big Nuts get right down there on a level with Little Bean!" And you see I put them down.
But I shake the can, and the big ones go right back to the top with the same shakes that send the little ones back to the bottom.
There is only one way for those objects to change their place in the can. Lifting them up or putting them down will not do it. But change their size!
Equality of position demands quality of size. Let the little one grow bigger and he will shake up. Let the big one grow smaller and he will shake down.
The Shaking Barrel of Life
O, fellow apples! We are all apples in the barrel of life on the way to the market place of the future. It is a corduroy road and the barrel shakes all the time.
In the barrel are big apples, little apples, freckled apples, speckled apples, green apples, and dried apples. A bad boy on the front row shouted the other night, "And rotten apples!"
In other words, all the people of the world are in the great barrel of life. That barrel is shaking all the time. Every community is shaking, every place is shaking. The offices, the shops, the stores, the schools, the pulpits, the homes—every place where we live or work is shaking. Life is a constant survival of the fittest.
The same law that shakes the little ones down and the big ones up in that can is shaking every person to the place he fits in the barrel of life. It is sending small people down and great people up.
And do you not see that we are very foolish when we want to be lifted up to some big place, or when we want some big person to be put down to some little place? We are foolishly trying to overturn the eternal law of life.
We shake right back to the places our size determines. We must get ready for places before we can get them and keep them.
The very worst thing that can happen to anybody is to be artificially boosted up into some place where he rattles.
I hear a good deal about destiny. Some people seem to think destiny is something like a train and if we do not get to the depot in time our train of destiny will run off and leave us, and we will have no destiny. There is destiny—that jar.
If we are small we shall have a small destiny. If we are great we shall have a great destiny. We cannot dodge our destiny.
Kings and Queens of Destiny
The objects in that jar cannot change their size. But thank God, you and I are not helpless victims of blind fate. We are not creatures of chance. We have it in our hands to decide our destiny as we grow or refuse to grow.
We shake down if we become small; we shake up if we become great. And when we have reached the place our size determines, we stay there so long as we stay that size.
If we wish to change our place, we must first change our size. If we wish to go down, we must grow smaller and we shall shake down. If we wish to go up, we must grow greater, and we shall shake up.
Each person is doing one of three things consciously or unconsciously.
1. He is holding his place.
2. He is going down.
3. He is going up.
In order to hold his place he must hold his size. He must fill the place. If he shrinks up he will rattle. Nobody can stay long where he rattles. Nature abhors a rattler. He shakes down to a smaller place.
In order to stay the same size he must grow enough each day to supply the loss by evaporation. Evaporation is going steadily on in lives as well as in liquids. If we are not growing any, we are rattling.
We Compel Promotion
So you young people should keep in mind that you will shake into the places you fit. And when you are in your places—in stores, shops, offices or elsewhere, if you want to hold your place you must keep growing enough to keep it tightly filled.
If you want a greater place, you simply grow greater and they cannot keep you down. You do not ask for promotion, you compel promotion. You grow greater, enlarge your dimensions, develop new capabilities, do more than you are paid to do—overfill your place, and you shake up to a greater place.
I believe if I were so fortunate or unfortunate as to have a number of people working for me, I would have a jar in my office filled with various sizes of objects. When an employee would come into the office and say, "Isn't it about time I was getting a raise?" I would say, "Go shake the jar, Charlie. That is the way you get raised. As you grow greater you won't need to ask to be promoted. You will promote yourself."
"Good Luck" and "Bad Luck"
This jar tells me so much about luck. I have noted that the lucky people shake up and the unlucky people shake down. That is, the lucky people grow great and the unlucky people shrivel and rattle.
Notice as I bump this jar. Two things happened. The little ones shook down and the big ones shook up. The bump that was bad luck to the little ones was good luck to the big ones. The same bump was both good luck and bad luck.
Luck does not depend upon the direction of the bump, but upon the size of the bump-ee!
The "Lucky" One
So everywhere you look you see the barrel sorting people according to size. Every business concern can tell you stories like that of the Chicago house where a number of young ladies worked. Some of them had been there for a long time. There came a raw, green Dutch girl from the country. It was her first office experience, and she got the bottom job.
The other girls poked fun at her and played jokes upon her because she was so green.
Do you remember that green things grow?
"Is not she the limit?" they oft spake one to another. She was. She made many blunders. But it is now recalled that she never made the same blunder twice. She learned the lesson with one helping to the bumps.
And she never "got done." When she had finished her work, the work she had been put at, she would discover something else that ought to be done, and she would go right on working, contrary to the rules of the union! Without being told, mind you. She had that rare faculty the world is bidding for—initiative.
The other girls "got done." When they had finished the work they had been put at, they would wait—O, so patiently they would wait—to be told what to do next.
Within three months every other girl in that office was asking questions of the little Dutch girl. She had learned more about business in three months than the others had learned in all the time they had been there. Nothing ever escaped her. She had become the most capable girl in the office.
The barrel did the rest. Today she is giving orders to all of them, for she is the office superintendent.
The other girls feel hurt about it. They will tell you in confidence that it was the rankest favoritism ever known. "There was nothing fair about it. Jennie ought to have been made superintendent. Jennie had been here four years."
The "Unlucky" One
The other day in a paper-mill I was standing beside a long machine making shiny super-calendered paper. I asked the man working there some questions about the machine, which he answered fairly well. Then I asked him about a machine in the next room. He said, "I don't know nothing about it, boss, I don't work in there."
I asked him about another process, and he replied, "I don't know nothing about it, I never worked in there." I asked him about the pulpmill. He replied, "No, I don't know nothing about that, neither. I don't work in there." And he did not betray the least desire to know anything about anything.
"How long have you worked here?"
"About twelve years."
Going out of the building, I asked the foreman, "Do you see that man over there at the supercalendered machine?" pointing to the man who didn't know. "Is he a human being?"
The foreman's face clouded. "I hate to talk to you about that man. He is one of the kindest-hearted men we ever had in the works, but we've got to let him go. We're afraid he'll break the machine. He isn't interested, does not learn, doesn't try to learn."
So he had begun to rattle. Nobody can stay where he rattles. It is grow or go.
Life's Barrel the Leveler
So books could be filled with just such stories of how people have gone up and down. You may have noticed two brothers start with the same chance, and presently notice that one is going up and the other is going down.
Some of us begin life on the top branches, right in the sunshine of popular favor, and get our names in the blue-book at the start. Some of us begin down in the shade on the bottom branches, and we do not even get invited. We often become discouraged as we look at the top-branchers, and we say, "O, if I only had his chance! If I were only up there I might amount to something. But I am too low down."
We can grow. Everybody can grow.
And afterwhile we are all in the barrel of life, shaken and bumped about. There the real people do not often ask us, "On what branch of that tree did you grow?" But they often inquire, "Are you big enough to fill this place?"
The Fatal Rattle!
Now life is mainly routine. You and I and everybody must go on doing pretty much the same things over and over. Every day we appear to have about the same round of duties.
But if we let life become routine, we are shaking down. The very routine of life must every day flash a new attractiveness. We must be learning new things and discovering new joys in our daily routine or we become unhappy. If we go on doing just the same things in the same way day after day, thinking the same thoughts, our eyes glued to precedents—just turning round and round in our places and not growing any, pretty soon we become mere machines. We wear smaller. The joy and juice go out of our lives. We shrivel and rattle.
The success, joy and glory of life are in learning, growing, going forward and upward. That is the only way to hold our place.
The farmer must be learning new things about farming to hold his place this progressive age as a farmer. The merchant must be growing into a greater, wiser merchant to hold his place among his competitors. The minister must be getting larger visions of the ministry as he goes back into the same old pulpit to keep on filling it. The teacher must be seeing new possibilities in the same old schoolroom. The mother must be getting a larger horizon in her homemaking.
We only live as we grow and learn. When anybody stays in the same place year after year and fills it, he does not rattle.
Unless the place is a grave!
I shiver as I see the pages of school advertisements in the journals labeled "Finishing Schools," and "A Place to Finish Your Child." I know the schools generally mean all right, but I fear the students will get the idea they are being finished, which finishes them. We never finish while we live. A school finishing is a commencement, not an end-ment.
I am sorry for the one who says, "I know all there is to know about that. You can't tell me anything about that." He is generally rattling.
The greater and wiser the man, the more anxious he is to be told.
I am sorry for the one who struts around saying, "I own the job. They can't get along without me." For I feel that they are getting ready to get along without him. That noise you hear is the death-rattle in his throat.
Big business men keep their ears open for rattles in their machinery.
I am sorry for the man, community or institution that spends much time pointing backward with pride and talking about "in my day!" For it is mostly rattle. The live one's "my day" is today and tomorrow. The dead one's is yesterday.
We Must Get Ready to Get
We young people come up into life wanting great places. I would not give much for a young person (or any other person) who does not want a great place. I would not give much for anybody who does not look forward to greater and better things tomorrow.
We often think the way to get a great place is just to go after it and get it. If we do not have pull enough, get some more pull. Get some more testimonials.
We think if we could only get into a great place we would be great. But unless we have grown as great as the place we would be a great joke, for we would rattle. And when we have grown as great as the place, that sized place will generally come seeking us.
We do not become great by getting into a great place, any more than a boy becomes a man by getting into his father's boots. He is in great boots, but he rattles. He must grow greater feet before he gets greater boots. But he must get the feet before he gets the boots.
We must get ready for things before we get them.
All life is preparation for greater things.
Moses was eighty years getting ready to do forty years work. The Master was thirty years getting ready to do three years work. So many of us expect to get ready in "four easy lessons by mail."
We can be a pumpkin in one summer, with the accent on the "punk." We can be a mushroom in a day, with the accent on the "mush." But we cannot become an oak that way.
The world is not greatly impressed by testimonials. The man who has the most testimonials generally needs them most to keep him from rattling. A testimonial so often becomes a crutch.
Many a man writes a testimonial to get rid of somebody. "Well, I hope it will do him some good. Anyhow, I have gotten him off my hands." I heard a Chicago superintendent say to his foreman, "Give him a testimonial and fire him!"
It is dangerous to overboost people, for the higher you boost them the farther they will fall.
The Menace of the Press-Notice
Now testimonials and press-notices very often serve useful ends. In lyceum work, in teaching, in very many lines, they are often useful to introduce a stranger. A letter of introduction is useful. A diploma, a degree, a certificate, a license, are but different kinds of testimonials.
The danger is that the hero of them may get to leaning upon them. Then they become a mirror for his vanity instead of a monitor for his vitality.
Most testimonials and press-notices are frank flatteries. They magnify the good points and say little as possible about the bad ones. I look back over my lyceum life and see that I hindered my progress by reading my press-notices instead of listening to the verdict of my audiences. I avoided frank criticism. It would hurt me. Whenever I heard an adverse criticism, I would go and read a few press-notices. "There, I am all right, for this clipping says I am the greatest ever, and should he return, no hall would be able to contain the crowd."
And my vanity bump would again rise.
Alas! How often I have learned that when I did return the hall that was filled before was entirely too big for the audience! The editors of America—God bless them! They are always trying to boost a home enterprise—not for the sake of the imported attraction but for the sake of the home folks who import it.
We must read people, not press-notices.
When you get to the place where you can stand aside and "see yourself go by"—when you can keep still and see every fibre of you and your work mercilessly dissected, shake hands with yourself and rejoice, for the kingdom of success is yours.
The Artificial Uplift
There are so many loving, sincere, foolish, cruel uplift movements in the land. They spring up, fail, wail, disappear, only to be succeeded by twice as many more. They fail because instead of having the barrel do the uplifting, they try to do it with a derrick.
The victims of the artificial uplift cannot stay uplifted. They rattle back, and "the last estate of that man is worse than the first."
You cannot uplift a beggar by giving him alms. You are using the derrick. We must feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but that is not helping them, that is propping them. The beggar who asks you to help him does not want to be helped. He wants to be propped. He wants you to license him and professionalize him as a beggar.
You can only help a man to help himself. Help him to grow. You cannot help many people, for there are not many people willing to be helped on the inside. Not many willing to grow up.
When Peter and John went up to the temple they found the lame beggar sitting at the gate Beautiful. Every day the beggar had been "helped." Every day as they laid him at the gate people would pass thru the gate and see him. He would say, "Help me!" "Poor man," they would reply, "you are in a bad fix. Here is help," and they would throw him some money.
And so every day that beggar got to be more of a beggar. The public "helped" him to be poorer in spirit, more helpless and a more hopeless cripple. No doubt he belonged after a few days of the "helping" to the Jerusalem Beggars' Union and carried his card. Maybe he paid a commission for such a choice beggars' beat.
But Peter really helped him. "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."
Fix the People, Not the Barrel
I used to say, "Nobody uses me right. Nobody gives me a chance." But if chances had been snakes, I would have been bitten a hundred times a day. We need oculists, not opportunities.
I used to work on the "section" and get a dollar and fifteen cents a day. I rattled there. I did not earn my dollar fifteen. I tried to see how little I could do and look like I was working. I was the Artful Dodger of Section Sixteen. When the whistle would blow—O, joyful sound!—I would leave my pick hang right up in the air. I would not bring it down again for a soulless corporation.
I used to wonder as I passed Bill Barlow's bank on the way down to the section-house, why I was not president of that bank. I wondered why I was not sitting upon one of those mahogany seats instead of pumping a handcar. I was naturally bright. I used to say "If the rich wasn't getting richer and the poor poorer, I'd be president of a bank."
Did you ever hear that line of conversation? It generally comes from somebody who rattles where he is.
I am so glad now that I did not get to be president of the bank. They are glad, too! I would have rattled down in about fifteen minutes, down to the peanut row, for I was only a peanut. Remember, the hand-car job is just as honorable as the bank job, but as I was not faithful over a few things, I would have rattled over many things.
The fairy books love to tell about some clodhopper suddenly enchanted up into a king. But life's good fairies see to it that the clodhopper is enchanted into readiness for kingship before he lands upon the throne.
The only way to rule others is to learn to rule ourself.
I used to say, "Just wait till I get to Congress." I think they are all waiting! "I'll fix things. I'll pass laws requiring all apples to be the same size. Yes, I'll pass laws to turn the barrel upside down, so the little ones will be on the top and the big ones will be at the bottom."
But I had not seen that it wouldn't matter which end was the top, the big ones would shake right up to it and the little ones would shake down to the bottom.
The little man has the chance now, just as fast as he grows. You cannot fix the barrel. You can only fix the people inside the barrel.
Have you ever noticed that the man who is not willing to fix himself, is the one who wants to get the most laws passed to fix other people? He wants something for nothing.
That Cruel Fate
O, I am so glad I did not get the things I wanted at the time I wanted them! They would have been coffee-pots. Thank goodness, we do not get the coffee-pot until we are ready to handle it.
Today you and I have things we couldn't have yesterday. We just wanted them yesterday. O, how we wanted them! But a cruel fate would not let us have them. Today we have them. They come to us as naturally today, and we see it is because we have grown ready for them, and the barrel has shaken us up to them.
Today you and I want things beyond our reach. O, how we want them! But a cruel fate will not let us have them.
Do you not see that "cruel fate" is our own smallness and unreadiness? As we grow greater we have greater things. We have today all we can stand today. More would wreck us. More would start us to rattling.
Getting up is growing up.
And this blessed old barrel of life is just waiting and anxious to shake everybody up as fast as everybody grows.
How We Become Great
WE go up as we grow great. That is, we go up as we grow up. But so many are trying to grow great on the outside without growing great on the inside. They rattle on the inside!
They fool themselves, but nobody else.
There is only one greatness—inside greatness. All outside greatness is merely an incidental reflection of the inside.
Greatness is not measured in any material terms. It is not measured in inches, dollars, acres, votes, hurrahs, or by any other of the world's yardsticks or barometers.
Greatness is measured in spiritual terms. It is education. It is life expansion.
We go up from selfishness to unselfishness.
We go up from impurity to purity.
We go up from unhappiness to happiness.
We go up from weakness to strength.
We go up from low ideals to high ideals.
We go up from little vision to greater vision.
We go up from foolishness to wisdom.
We go up from fear to faith.
We go up from ignorance to understanding.
We go up by our own personal efforts. We go up by our own service, sacrifice, struggle and overcoming. We push out our own skyline. We rise above our own obstacles. We learn to see, hear, hold and understand.
We may become very great, very educated, rise very high, and yet not leave our kitchen or blacksmith shop. We take the kitchen or blacksmith shop right up with us! We make it a great kitchen or great blacksmith shop. It becomes our throne-room!
Come, let us grow greater. There is a throne for each of us.
"Getting to the Top"
"Getting to the top" is the world's pet delusion. There is no top. No matter how high we rise, we discover infinite distances above. The higher we rise, the better we see that life on this planet is the going up from the Finite to the Infinite.
The world says that to get greatness means to get great things. So the world is in the business of getting—getting great fortunes, great lands, great titles, great applause, great fame, and folderol. Afterwhile the poor old world hears the empty rattle of the inside, and wails, "All is vanity. I find no pleasure in them. Life is a failure." All outside life is a failure. Real life is in being things on the inside, not in getting things on the outside.
I weary of the world's pink-sheet extras about "Getting to the Top" and "Forging to the Front." Too often they are the sordid story of a few scrambling over the heads of the weaker ones. Sometimes they are the story of one pig crowding the other pigs out of the trough and cornering all the swill!
The Secret of Greatness
Christ Jesus was a great Teacher. His mission was to educate humanity.
There came to him those two disciples who wanted to "get to the top." Those two sons of Zebedee wanted to have the greatest places in the new kingdom they imagined he would establish on earth.
They got very busy pursuing greatness, but I do not read that they were half so busy preparing for greatness. They even had their mother out electioneering for them.
"O, Master," said the mother, "grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom."
The Master looked with love and pity upon their unpreparedness. "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then he gave the only definition of greatness that can ever stand: "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant."
That is we cannot be "born great," nor "have greatness thrust upon" us. We must "achieve greatness" by developing it on the inside—developing ability to minister and to serve.
We cannot buy a great arm. Our arm must become a great servant, and thus it becomes great.
We cannot buy a great mind. Our mind must become a great servant, and thus it becomes great.
We cannot buy a great character. It is earned in great moral service.
The First Step at Hand
This is the Big Business of life—going up, getting educated, getting greatness on the inside. Getting greatness on the outside is little business. Much of it mighty little.
Everybody's privilege and duty is to become great. And the joy of it is that the first step is always nearest at hand. We do not have to go off to New York or Chicago or go chasing around the world to become great. It is a great stairway that leads from where our feet are now upward for an infinite number of steps.
We must take the first step now. Most of us want to take the hundredth step or the thousandth step now. We want to make some spectacular stride of a thousand steps at one leap. That is why we fall so hard when we miss our step.
We must go right back to our old place—into our kitchen or our workshop or our office and take the first step, solve the problem nearest at hand. We must make our old work luminous with a new devotion. We must battle up over every inch. And as fast as we solve and dissolve the difficulties and turn our burdens into blessings, we find love, the universal solvent, shining out of our lives. We find our spiritual influences going upward. So the winds of earth are born; they rush in from the cold lands to the warm upward currents. And so as our problems disappear and our life currents set upward, the world is drawn toward us with its problems. We find our kitchen or workshop or office becoming a new throne of power. We find the world around us rising up to call us blessed.
As we grow greater our troubles grow smaller, for we see them thru greater eyes. We rise above them.
As we grow greater our opportunities grow greater. That is, we begin to see them. They are around us all the time, but we must get greater eyes to see them.
Generally speaking, the smaller our vision of our work, the more we admire what we have accomplished and "point with pride." The greater our vision, the more we see what is yet to be accomplished.
It was the sweet girl graduate who at commencement wondered how one small head could contain it all. It was Newton after giving the world a new science who looked back over it and said, "I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore * * * while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." That great ocean is before us all.
The Widow's Mites
The great Teacher pointed to the widow who cast her two mites into the treasury, and then to the rich men who had cast in much more. "This poor widow hath cast in more than they all. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."
Tho the rich men had cast in more, yet it was only a part of their possessions. The widow cast in less, but it was all she had. The Master cared little what the footings of the money were in the treasury. That is not why we give. We give to become great. The widow had given all—had completely overcome her selfishness and fear of want.
Becoming great is overcoming our selfishness and fear. He that saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for the advancement of the kingdom of happiness on earth shall find it great and glorified.
Our greatness therefore does not depend upon how much we give or upon what we do, whether peeling potatoes or ruling a nation, but upon the percentage of our output to our resources. Upon doing with our might what our hands find to do. Quit worrying about what you cannot get to do. Rejoice in doing the things you can get to do. And as you are faithful over a few things you go up to be ruler over many.
The world says some of us have golden gifts and some have copper gifts. But when we cast them all into the treasury of right service, there is an alchemy that transmutes every gift into gold. Every work is drudgery when done selfishly. Every work becomes golden when done in a golden manner.
Finding the Great People
I do not know who fitted the boards into the floor I stand upon. I do not know all the great people who may come and stand upon this floor. But I do know that the one who made the floor—and the one who sweeps it—is just as great as anybody in the world who may come and stand upon it, if each be doing his work with the same love, faithfulness and capability.
We have to look farther than the "Who's Who" and Dun and Bradstreet to make a roster of the great people of a community. You will find the community heart in the precious handful who believe that the service of God is the service of man.
The great people of the community serve and sacrifice for a better tomorrow. They are the faithful few who get behind the churches, the schools, the lyceum and chautauqua, and all the other movements that go upward.
They are the ones who are "always trying to run things." They are the happy ones, happy for the larger vision that comes as they go higher by unselfish service. They are discovering that their sweetest pay comes from doing many things they are not paid for. They rarely get thanked, for the community does not often think of thanking them until it comes time to draft the "resolutions of respect."
I had to go to the mouth of a coal-mine in a little Illinois town, to find the man the bureau had given as lyceum committeeman there. I wondered what the grimy-faced man from the shaft, wearing the miner's lamp in his cap, could possibly have to do with the lyceum course. But I learned that he had all to do with it. He had sold the tickets and had done all the managing. He was superintendent of the Sunday school. He was the storm-center of every altruistic effort in the town—the greatest man there, because the most serviceable, tho he worked every day full time with his pick at his bread-and-butter job.
The great people are so busy serving that they have little time to strut and pose in the show places. Few of them are "prominent clubmen." You rarely find their names in the society page. They rarely give "brilliant social functions." Their idle families attend to such things.
A Glimpse of Gunsaulus
I found a great man lecturing at the chautauquas. He preaches in Chicago on Sundays to thousands. He writes books and runs a college he founded by his own preaching. He is the mainspring of so many uplift movements that his name gets into the papers about every day, and you read it in almost every committee doing good things in Chicago.
He had broken away from Chicago to have a vacation. Many people think that a vacation means going off somewhere and stretching out under trees or letting the mind become a blank. But this Chicago preacher went from one chautauqua town to another, and took his vacation going up and down the streets. He dug into the local history of each place, and before dinner he knew more about the place than most of the natives.
"There is a sermon for me," he would exclaim every half-hour. He went to see people who were doing things. He went to see people who were doing nothing. In every town he would discover somebody of unusual attainment. He made every town an unusual town. He turned the humdrum travel map into a wonderland. He scolded lazy towns and praised enterprising ones. He stopped young fellows on the streets. "What are you going to do in life?" Perhaps the young man would say, "I have no chance." "You come to Chicago and I'll give you a chance," the man on his vacation would reply.
So this Chicago preacher was busy every day, working overtime on his vacation. He was busy about other people's business. He did not once ask the price of land, nor where there was a good investment for himself, but every day he was trying to make an investment in somebody else.
His friends would sometimes worry about him. They would say, "Why doesn't the doctor take care of himself, instead of taking care of everybody else? He wears himself out for other people until he hasn't strength enough left to lecture and do his own work."
Sometimes they were right about that.
But he that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life in loving service finds it returning to him great and glorious. This man's preaching did not make him great. His college did not make him great. His books did not make him great. These are the by-products. His life of service for others makes him great—makes his preaching, his college and his books great.
This Chicago man gives his life into the service of humanity, and it becomes the fuel to make the steam to accomplish the wonderful things he does. Let him stop and "take care of himself," and his career would stop.
If he had begun life by "taking care of himself" and "looking out for number one," stipulating in advance every cent he was to get and writing it all down in the contract, most likely Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus would have remained a struggling, discouraged preacher in the backwoods of Morrow county, Ohio.
Give It Now
Gunsaulus often says, "You are planning and saving and telling yourself that afterwhile you are going to give great things and do great things. Give it now! Give your dollar now, rather than your thousands afterwhile. You need to give it now, and the world needs to get it now."
The Problem of "Preparedness"
Preparing Children to Live
THE problem of "preparedness" is the problem of preparing children for life. All other kinds of "preparedness" fade into insignificance before this. The history of nations shows that their strength was not in the size of their armies and in the vastness of their population and wealth, but in the strength and ideals of the individual citizens.
As long as the nation was young and growing—as long as the people were struggling and overcoming—that nation was strong. It was "prepared."
But when the struggle stopped, the strength waned, for the strength came from the struggle. When the people became materially prosperous and surrendered to ease and indulgence, they became fat, stall-fed weaklings. Then they fell a prey to younger, hardier peoples.
Has the American nation reached that period?
Many homes and communities have reached it.
All over America are fathers and mothers who have struggled and have become strong men and women thru their struggles, who are saying, "Our children shall have better chances than we had. We are living for our children. We are going to give them the best education our money can buy."
Then, forgetful of how they became strong, they plan to take away from their children their birthright—their opportunity to become strong and "prepared"—thru struggle and service and overcoming.
Most "advantages" are disadvantages. Giving a child a chance generally means getting out of his way. Many an orphan can be grateful that he was jolted from his life-preserver and cruelly forced to sink or swim. Thus he learned to swim.
"We are going to give our children the best education our money can buy."
They think they can buy an education—buy wisdom, strength and understanding, and give it to them C. O. D! They seem to think they will buy any brand they see—buy the home brand of education, or else send off to New York or Paris or to "Sears Roebuck," and get a bucketful or a tankful of education. If they are rich enough, maybe they will have a private pipeline of education laid to their home. They are going to force this education into them regularly until they get them full of education. They are going to get them fully inflated with education!
Toll the bell! There's going to be a "blow out." Those inflated children are going to have to run on "flat tires."
Father and mother cannot buy their children education. All they can do is to buy them some tools, perhaps, and open the gate and say, "Sic 'em, Tige!" The children must get it themselves.
A father and mother might as well say, "We will buy our children the strength we have earned in our arms and the wisdom we have acquired in a life of struggle." As well expect the athlete to give them his physical development he has earned in years of exercise. As well expect the musician to give them the technic he has acquired in years of practice. As well expect the scholar to give them the ability to think he has developed in years of study. As well expect Moses to give them his spiritual understanding acquired in a long life of prayer.
They can show the children the way, but each child must make the journey.
Here is a typical case.
The Story of "Gussie"
There was a factory town back East. Not a pretty town, but just a great, dirty mill and a lot of little dirty houses around the mill. The hands lived in the little dirty houses and worked six days of the week in the big mill.
There was a little, old man who went about that mill, often saying, "I hain't got no book l'arnin' like the rest of you." He was the man who owned the mill. He had made it with his own genius out of nothing. He had become rich and honored. Every man in the mill loved him like a father.
He had an idolatry for a book.
He also had a little pink son, whose name was F. Gustavus Adolphus. The little old man often said, "I'm going to give that boy the best education my money can buy."
He began to buy it. He began to polish and sandpaper Gussie from the minute the child could sit up in the cradle and notice things. He sent him to the astrologer, the phrenologer and all other "ologers" they had around there. When Gussie was old enough to export, he sent the boy to one of the greatest universities in the land. The fault was not with the university, not with Gussie, who was bright and capable.
The fault was with the little old man, who was so wise and great about everything else, and so foolish about his own boy. In the blindness of his love he robbed his boy of his birthright.
The birthright of every child is the opportunity of becoming great—of going up—of getting educated.
Gussie had no chance to serve. Everything was handed to him on a silver platter. Gussie went thru that university about like a steer from Texas goes thru Mr. Armour's institute of packnology in Chicago. Did you ever go over into Packingtown and see a steer receive his education?
You remember, then, that after he matriculates—after he gets the grand bump, said steer does not have to do another thing. His education is all arranged for in advance and he merely rides thru and receives it. There is a row of professors with their sleeves rolled up who give him the degrees. So as Mr. T. Steer of Panhandle goes riding thru on that endless cable from his A-B-C's to his eternal cold storage, each professor hits him a dab. He rides along from department to department until he is canned.
They "canned" Gussie. He had a man hired to study for him. He rode from department to department. They upholstered him, enameled him, manicured him, sugar-cured him, embalmed him. Finally Gussie was done and the paint was dry. He was a thing of beauty.
Gussie and Bill Whackem Gussie came back home with his education in the baggage-car. It was checked. The mill shut down on a week day, the first time in its history. The hands marched down to the depot, and when the young lord alighted, the factory band played, "See, the Conquering Hero Comes."
A few years later the mill shut down again on a week day. There was crape hanging on the office door. Men and women stood weeping in the streets. The little old man had been translated.
When they next opened up the mill, F. Gustavus Adolphus was at its head. He had inherited the entire plant. "F. Gustavus Adolphus, President."
Poor little peanut! He rattled. He had never grown great enough to fill so great a place. In two years and seven months the mill was a wreck. The monument of a father's lifetime was wrecked in two years and seven months by the boy who had all the "advantages."
So the mill was shut down the third time on a week day. It looked as tho it never could open. But it did open, and when it opened it had a new kind of boss. If I were to give the new boss a descriptive name, I would call him "Bill Whackem." He was an orphan. He had little chance. He had a new black eye almost every day. But he seemed to fatten on bumps. Every time he was bumped he would swell up. How fast he grew! He became the most useful man in the community. People forgot all about Bill's lowly origin. They got to looking up to him to start and run things.
So when the courts were looking for somebody big enough to take charge of the wrecked mill, they simply had to appoint Hon. William Whackem. It was Hon. William Whackem who put the wreckage together and made the wheels go round, and finally got the hungry town back to work.
Colleges Give Us Tools
After that a good many people said it was the college that made a fool of Gussie. They said Bill succeeded so well because he never went to one of "them highbrow schools." I am sorry to say I thought that way for a good while.
But now I see that Bill went up in spite of his handicaps. If he had had Gussie's fine equipment he might have accomplished vastly more.
The book and the college suffer at the hands of their friends. They say to the book and the college, "Give us an education." They cannot do that. You cannot get an education from the book and the college any more than you can get to New York by reading a travelers' guide. You cannot get physical education by reading a book on gymnastics.
The book and the college show you the way, give you instruction and furnish you finer working tools. But the real education is the journey you make, the strength you develop, the service you perform with these instruments and tools.
Gussie was in the position of a man with a very fine equipment of tools and no experience in using them. Bill was the man with the poor, homemade, crude tools, but with the energy, vision and strength developed by struggle.
The "Hard Knocks Graduates"
For education is getting wisdom, understanding, strength, greatness, physically, mentally and morally. I believe I know some people liberally educated who cannot write their own names. But they have served and overcome and developed great lives with the poor, crude tools at their command.
In almost every community are what we sometimes call "hard knocks graduates"—people who have never been to college nor have studied many or any books. Yet they are educated to the degree they have acquired these elements of greatness in their lives.
They realized how they have been handicapped by their poor mental tools.
That is why they say, "All my life I have been handicapped by lack of proper preparation. Don't make my mistake, children, go to school."
The young person with electrical genius will make an electrical machine from a few bits of junk. But send him to Westinghouse and see how much more he will achieve with the same genius and with finer equipment.
Get the best tools you can. But remember diplomas, degrees are not an education, they are merely preparations. When you are thru with the books, remember, you are having a commencement, not an end-ment. You will discover with the passing years that life is just one series of greater commencements.
Go out with your fine equipment from your commencements into the school of service and write your education in the only book you ever can know—the book of your experience.
That is what you know—what the courts will take as evidence when they put you upon the witness stand.
The Tragedy of Unpreparedness
The story of Gussie and Bill Whackem is being written in every community in tears, failure and heartache. It is peculiarly a tragedy of our American civilization today.
These fathers and mothers who toil and save, who get great farms, fine homes and large bank accounts, so often think they can give greatness to their children—they can make great places for them in life and put them into them.
They do all this and the children rattle. They have had no chance to grow great enough for the places. The child gets the blame for making the wreck, even as Gussie was blamed for wrecking his father's plant, when the child is the victim.
A man heard me telling the story of Gussie and Bill Whackem, and he went out of my audience very indignant. He said he was very glad his boy was not there to hear it. But that good, deluded father now has his head bowed in shame over the career of his spoiled son.
I rarely tell of it on a platform that at the close of the lecture somebody does not take me aside and tell me a story just as sad from that community.
For years poor Harry Thaw was front-paged on the newspapers and gibbeted in the pulpits as the shocking example of youthful depravity. He seems never to have had a fighting chance to become a man. He seems to have been robbed of his birthright from the cradle. Yet the father of this boy who has cost America millions in court and detention expenses was one of the greatest business generals of the Keystone state. He could plat great coal empires and command armies of men, but he seems to have been pitifully ignorant of the fact that the barrel shakes.
It is the educated, the rich and the worldly wise who blunder most in the training of their children. Poverty is a better trainer for the rest.
The menace of America lies not in the swollen fortunes, but in the shrunken souls who inherit them.
But Nature's eliminating process is kind to the race in the barrel shaking down the rattlers. Somebody said it is only three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.
How long this nation will endure depends upon how many Gussie boys this nation produces. Steam heat is a fine thing, but do you notice how few of our strong men get their start with steam heat?
Children, Learn This Early
You boys and girls, God bless you! You live in good homes. Father and mother love you and give you everything you need. You get to thinking, "I won't have to turn my hand over. Papa and mamma will take care of me, and when they are gone I'll inherit everything they have. I'm fixed for life."
No, you are unfixed. You are a candidate for trouble. You are going to rattle. Father and mother can be great and you can be a peanut.
You must solve your own problems and carry your own loads to have a strong mind and back. Anybody who does for you regularly what you can do for yourself—anybody who gives you regularly what you can earn for yourself, is robbing you of your birthright.
Father and mother can put money in your pocket, ideas in your head and food in your stomach, but you cannot own it save as you digest it—put it into your life.
I have read somewhere about a man who found a cocoon and put it in his house where he could watch it develop. One day he saw a little insect struggling inside the cocoon. It was trying to get out of the envelope. It seemed in trouble and needed help. He opened the envelope with a knife and set the struggling insect free. But out came a monstrosity that soon died. It had an over-developed body and under-developed wings. He learned that helping the insect was killing it. He took away from it the very thing it had to have—the struggle. For it was this struggle of breaking its own way out of that envelope that was needed to reduce its body and develop its wings.
Not Packhorse Work
But remember there is little virtue in work unless it is getting us somewhere. Just work that gets us three meals a day and a place to lie down to sleep, then another day of the same grind, then a year of it and years following until our machine is worn out and on the junkpile, means little. "One day nearer home" for such a worker means one day nearer the scrapheap.
Such a worker is like the packhorse who goes forward to keep ahead of the whip. Such a worker is the horse we used to have hitched to the sorghum mill. Round and round that horse went, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, his head down, without ambition enough to prick up his ears. Such work deadens and stupefies. The masses work about that way. They regard work as a necessary evil. They are right—such work is a necessary evil, and they make it such. They follow their nose. "Dumb, driven cattle."
But getting a vision of life, and working to grow upward to it, that is the work that brings the joy and the greatness.
When we are growing and letting our faculties develop, we will love even the packhorse job, because it is our "meal ticket" that enables us to travel upward.
"Helping" the Turkeys
One time I put some turkey eggs under the mother hen and waited day by day for them to hatch. And sure enough, one day the eggs began to crack and the little turkeys began to stick their heads out of the shells. Some of the little turkeys came out from the shells all right, but some of them stuck in the shells.