If a Gladstone in the midst of pressing duties of international importance found time to visit a poor sick crossing sweeper, what excuse can less busy and less important people offer for the neglect of these small acts of kindness which make the best of life? Gladstone endeared himself to the heart of the English people by this more than by many of the great things he did. So did Phillips Brooks, by caring for a baby in the slums of Boston, that its mother might go out and get the fresh air, endear himself to the American people more than by many great acts of his noble life.
Yet how many of us hoard our sympathy, our words of good cheer and encouragement, the helpful kindnesses within our power to bestow, that might save many lives from misery, disaster and death! We not only withhold our sympathy, but we cling to our material wealth, and wonder why we are not popular and well beloved. We hoard our money in houses and lands and stocks and other investments, refus ing to help those in need, fearing we may some day need it ourselves.
Here is a bright young girl working in some office or factory, trying to help a brother or sister to secure an education, or trying to support an invalid father or mother. Her salary is small and out of all proportion to her services. She tells her employer of her pressing needs, of her sick parents, and asks for an increase in salary. He knows that she deserves it, and he is well able to pay more, but he selfishly puts her off with vague promises, telling himself that he cannot afford the expense now, that later on he may be able to give the girl more money. But the years pass and the girl finds herself beyond the age of business service, penniless, broken down in health, and, but for the charity of friends, a public charge.
This is a double crime, for it is not only a wrong to another, but a greater wrong to the God in one's own soul. In no other way do we morally starve and stunt our lives more than by postponing things which we know we ought to do for another, with the excuse that we can better afford it later. We know very well that the longer we postpone the good deed, the less probability there is that we will ever do it. And in the end we lose something far more precious than the thing we should have given.
He who denies the material aid that he could readily give, who withholds the fragrance of his love and helpfulness, finds that ultimately the very foundation of his heart dries up and his finer nature petrifies. He loses, too, the enjoyment that his wealth might procure, for the little shrunken soul cannot enjoy as the broad generous one can.
There is a tradition that King Solomon received a gift of a costly vase from the Queen of Sheba which contained an elixir, one drop of which would restore health and prolong life indefinitely. Solomon's friends heard about this wonderful life-restoring elixir, and when death was near they begged for a drop of the precious fluid, but Solomon always refused, because he feared that by opening the vase to get a drop the rest of the precious elixir might evaporate. At length he became very ill and bade his servants bring the vase, but behold, the precious contents had all evaporated!
Things are so constituted in this world that selfishness defeats its own end. The fragrance and the beauty do not exist in the unopened bud. It is only when the bud opens up its petals and begins to give itself out to others that its beauty and fragrance are developed.
Refuse to open your purse and soon you cannot open your sympathy. Refuse to love and you will soon lose the power to love; your affections are paralyzed, your sympathy atrophied, from selfish withholding and disuse, and you become a moral cripple. But the moment you fling open the door of your heart and allow the rose of your sympathy and helpfulness to send out, without stint, its fragrance and beauty, upon every passerby, whether pauper or millionaire, you begin to develop power.
What would you think of a man who after suffering for years with a very painful disease, had finally found a remedy which had entirely cured him, but who absolutely refused to tell others who were suffering with the same disease about the remedy? You would say that it was criminal. Perhaps you would hardly believe that any man would be so brutally selfish. But there are many beauti ful helpful things which come to us constantly, things which would cheer the discouraged, inspire the down-hearted, and bring sunshine and joy into unfortunate lives about us, and these things we could pass along with little, if any, trouble to ourselves; but how many of us pass them on? How often when people say good things about us do we take it as a compliment, without even a thought of trying to help the one who helped us, who gave us the lift, the encouragement, or of passing the same helpful message on to another? How often do we hoard personal or household things with the thought that some time we may need them instead of passing them on to others who need them now!
This is not love's way. Love is a generous giver. Love passes things along it can dİ without. It does not lay up all sorts of things in the attic, because they may some time be used. The old clothing, the discarded toys, the furniture it has no use for, it gives to the poor. It gives garments away before they are useless, while there is yet some wear in them. It passes on books and magazines it has read and no longer needs. Love goes through the house every little while and picks up and passes along to others less favored the things it can really do without. In other words, love has thought for others - feeling, sympathy, a longing to help, a passion to serve.
If we practice love's way we will have nothing to do with post-mortem kindness. We will not postpone any service that love can render. We will not wait, thinking that we will do the kindly act, give the needed help, a little later on. We will not forget that there are many things which we must pass along as we receive them.
Every day we can give out a lot of things that are invaluable, that will be a wonderful help to others not only without interfering with our daily duties, but with absolute benefit to them and to ourselves. After doing the things that Christ would have done under the circumstances we feel a renewal of strength. After every kindly act we hear His words come back to us: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these little ones, you have done it unto me."