Someone has said: "Some day we shall learn that the little deeds of love wrought unconsciously as we pass on our way are greater in their helpfulness and still shine more brightly in the life than the deeds of renown which we think of as alone making a life great."
Never was there a greater mistake than to think that heroism, courage, daring, are confined to the field of battle. It doesn't matter what post we are assigned to in the battle of life we have an opportunity to do heroic things every day. If we have the spirit of brotherly love; if we are filled with the love of truth and justice; if we are determined always to stand for the right no matter what the cost, we are unceasingly battling for the higher things of life.
It is as heroic to take a firm stand for honesty, when it may cost you your position, be cause your employer is not honest himself, or to rescue a person from a burning building, or from drowning, as it is to go into battle. It is heroic to stand for the right when others sneer and condemn you for doing so. It often takes more courage to stand alone for the right, for justice, for principle, when those about you ridicule and caricature you for your stand, than it would be to walk up to a cannon's mouth in battle, under the excitement, the stimulus of action and the support of the comradeship of a multitude of others.
If you can keep up your courage when others lose heart; if you can keep pushing on when others turn back; if you cari smile and wait when others play the coward and quit; if you can be serene in the face of misfortune, and of failure; if you can keep your nerve, and a level head when others get panicky; if you can carry yourself like a conqueror, keep your fixity of purpose when others waver; if you can stand unmoved and see your prosperity swept away from you, even your home sold over your head; if when you have been deceived where you trusted, your hopes and plans wrecked, your future apparently blighted, and you still refuse to lose your courage and your grip on yourself, or your faith in the Power that controls your life, then you may know that there is a hero, or a heroine, in you as noble as any that ever gave up his life on the field of battle for a great cause.
A woman who has been inveigled into an unfortunate marriage, taken away from her girlhood home and those who love her into a little cabin on a vast prairie twenty miles from any sign of civilization, writes: "Exiled from home and parents, deprived forever from pursuing my chosen vocation, the dream of my life faded out, lost, what have I to make happiness out of?"
Now, this is a situation that calls for that sort of moral heroism which as far transcends physical heroism as a high spiritual love transcends that which is merely physical, of the senses alone.
Whether this woman rises above, or sinks beneath the condition in which she finds herself rests wholly with her. The soul centered and poised in Divine Love is endowed with strength to conquer every limitation of the body, every condition or circumstance that would hold it down. You can keep your eyes turned inward, nurse your grief and disappointment until it conquers you, or you can look out and up at God's fair universe, and cry with Henley:
"Out of the night that covers me Black as the pit from pole to pole I thank whatever gods there be For my unconquerable soul."
This woman says she is not only exiled from her home, but exiled from happiness. No person is exiled from happiness unless he exiles himself. The chances are that if she would examine herself she would find a great many things which would alleviate her distress and help her bear her disappointment bravely. There are many things even in her situation for which millions of people would envy her. She is sound and whole in body and mind, with all her senses unimpaired, free to absorb the sweet pure air, the bright sunshine, the sights and sounds of nature all around her.
Few of us ever stop to think that the nearer we are to nature, to the source of things, the greater our opportunities for gathering strength and power to do, for power springs from the soil, from the sunshine. The country is the source of power, of beauty. How many who are weak and ailing, crippled or handicapped in some way, mental or physical; how many shut up in cities, with no possibility of visits to the country, would envy this woman her freedom, her great opportunity to keep close to nature and to study her at close range.
She acknowledges that there are those, even though at a great distance, who love her. Her ability to communicate with them still leaves her a great source of happiness. She probably does not realize how many people there are hungering for love, who have not a soul of their own kith and kin on earth, perhaps not a single human being who is sufficiently interested to care what becomes of them. In spite of her overwhelming disappointment, her loneliness, the hard circumstances in which she finds herself, she still has possibilities to make of her life a sublime success.
The way we meet our problems, great or small, is the test of our courage and of our faith in the greater Love that ordereth all things well. Remember, my friend, no matter where you are, or what your environment, you were sent here as an ambassador of the Almighty. You are here on His business - to make a worthy contribution to the world, to deliver the message with which He entrusted you. Now an ambassador must go where he is sent, and do his duty, attend to his business like a man, not whine, grumble, groan or whimper. You did not choose your present place, but the mission on which you were sent has made it necessary for you to go there, and, no matter whether you feel like it or not, it is your business to do your level best to be a good ambassador, to meet your difficulties in the spirit of a brave, strong, self-reliant soul. It is the business of every one of us to meet every situation in life with courage, with a stoic but cheerful determination to make the best and the most of whatever comes. This is our task, this is our mission, wherever we find it.
Thoreau, that great student and lover of nature, said, "God could not be unkind to me if He tried." If we have the right spirit, if we are animated by the love motive, there is no situation which we cannot turn to advantage. To have one's dream of happiness shattered at the outset is no little thing, but the only hope of reconstructing it is to meet the situation bravely and make the best of it. Not many are called upon to meet great trials like this. The majority are of the minor kind. Unfortunately, one disappointment, one little setback, makes most of us forget all the good things we still enjoy, just as one stormy day makes many people forget months of pleasant weather. The little cloud in front of our eyes at the moment seems to cover the whole sky, to shut out all sunlight and beauty. If instead of keeping our eyes turned inward we would keep them turned outward like Thoreau, we would see as he did, that "God could not be unkind to us if He tried."
When we stop to think of the things which constitute the average life we shall be surprised to find how seldom the big problem, the great dead, the unusual opportunity, the extraordinary experience enters into it. Some of the finest characters that ever lived never had met great trouble or unhappiness, never did a single thing that was very distinctive, very original, or heroic in the accepted sense. It was their whole life habit of accepting cheerfully whatever came, of doing good wherever an opportunity presented itself, of being kind, courteous, always helping someone somewhere, that made them strong, poised, unselfish, really noble men and women.
There is a wonderful meaning in the common every-day happenings, the little things that come up in the daily routine, which most of us lose sight of, and that is, the opportunity they give for character building, for mental training, for the object of all of life's endeavor - man-building and woman-building.
Your name and face may never appear in the newspapers or magazines, but every day you have an opportunity to live a beautiful life, a helpful life. The heroic virtues, courage, fortitude, unselfishness, can be practised behind the lines in the home, in the shop, in the factory, in the market-place, as well as in the forefront on the field of battle.
Only once or twice in a lifetime, and perhaps not at all, will you have a chance to do a thing that is heroic in a spectacular way, something that will attract widespread attention; but the little, common, every-day courtesies, the loving acts of kindness and helpfulness that count so much in the long run, we can practise every day. These are the things that make character, that beautify and ennoble life. These are really the things that in the aggregate make greatness. They may not win medals as will some physically daring, heroic deed, but they will win something even more valuable, - the strength that comes from daily service, without hope of notice or reward.