There are almost as many ways of being useful as there are people to be useful; and almost every one may be useful in some way if he desires to be. People are not always useful according to their ability. Some people who possess every means of being useful are perfect drones, and spend a life of idleness and dissipation that makes them a burden rather than a blessing to society, while others who seem to be cut off from every means of usefulness are a perfect blessing to every one they meet. It has been well said that the rich know nothing of the pleasures of the poor and I am proud to say myself that happiness is more equally divided than prosperity. And there is no pleasure like that of doing one’s duty under trying circumstances. I have known people who have cheerfully gone down into the very dregs of poverty and hardships that they might be useful to the dear ones who were dependent upon them for support and comfort. There is a virtue in necessity, and the person who apparently sacrifices his own happiness and pleasure that he might be useful to his loved ones increases his own pleasure ten fold. Many a mother has washed all day and with the greatest of pleasure has carried home her scant earnings to her expectant little ones with a pleasure that the rich have never known. Many a mother has trimmed the midnight lamp while bending over the sewing machine with her little ones sweetly sleeping around her, possibly dreaming of the good things papa used to bring. Don’t tell me there is no pleasure in performing the most ardent tasks if prompted by the pure spirit of love.
Nothing is difficult beneath the skies
Act well your part, there all virtue lies.
Many a father has gone to the hardships of life with that pure, noble, and manly feeling that makes even drudgery a pleasure, looking beyond the hardships to where his sweet wife and happy children are deeming nothing too hard that be useful to his dear dependent ones; such a man is the noblest work of God. He can tread the earth with a buoyance that the sluggard never knows. Even little children can be useful in increasing the happiness of those around them. Many little children are perfect little sunbeams scattering light and pleasure everywhere they go. “Agnes came into the room smiling, her mother said, where have you been, dear? At the Brown’s; and oh, mother, Walter was cross, but I happied him up so that he got all over it, and the baby cried and I had to happy her up too!” I tell you, I love little children who can happy people up.
Johnny said to his mother one day, “ I do not want to wear my good clothes today, Tommy Blake is coming over to play with me and he has no good clothes, and he will be happier if I dress common. Johnny wore his common clothes, and when Tommy came they had such a nice time playing together. That was good, sweet charity on Johnny’s part, and made a happy evening for both; for we generally increase our own happiness when we try to add to the happiness of others. Sometimes an apple that is hardly enough for one, when divided becomes plenty for three. Some children are called upon so early in life to be the staff and support of the family. I know a young man only fourteen years old whose father died and left a widow and three girls almost entirely dependent on him for support. When the neighbors came together to consider what might be done, some thought the mother could take in washing and that the little girls might find homes among the neighbors. The young man, with tears in his eyes while his lips quivered, said: “While this willing arm can find anything to do, that shall never be.” He kept his word, and the people were good enough to employ him, and boy as he was they gave him mans wages, and the family is all together yet.
There are times when even slavery itself is a pleasure. I will not trouble you to mention all the useful callings in life, for every person who follows an honest calling is useful in his time and generation. See how the world is pressing to the front, each one desiring to be useful in his own particular calling. We should be thankful that we live in this enterprising age. Not only the public spirited and high pressure people are useful, but many of the humble and retired people are quite as useful.
Many of the good old mothers who save garden seed for the whole neighborhood and gathers her simple remedies for the sick, who can cook meals and make nice, sweet butter, and who don’t talk about her neighbors, who dresses modestly when she goes to church, who has good advice for the boys and girls; such women as that are more useful than the high-flying kind who keep the whole neighborhood in a stew by their wonderful news packing propensities.
C. W. R. (C. W. Ridgway)