I recall a man whose life is a good illustration of this. He has hosts of friends and everybody loves him for his genial, helpful ways. He believes that every helpful suggestion and every uplifting thought implanted in the mind of youth are seeds sown in promising soil and that every time he meets a boy or girl he must sow some of this seed. He has made it a life rule to try to inspire, to encourage every young person he meets.
If it be a youth with a deficient education, he encourages him along the lines of self-improvement, tells him how he can make the most of. his time. If one who lacks ambition, he tries to arouse it, to light his mind with a glimpse of his possibilities. If he finds a round peg anywhere in a square hole, he urges him to get out of it, to find his niche. In other words, he tries to give everybody a lift as he goes along life's way, and no one will ever know how many lives he has influenced for good.
Some people are always helping someone, somewhere. Wherever they go sunshine and encouragement follow in their wake. The downcast are cheered, the suffering are relieved and comforted.
During the battle of Fredericksburg, hundreds of Union soldiers who were wounded on the battlefield lay there all day and all night suffering frightfully from thirst as well as the pain from their wounds. Their agonizing cries for water were answered only by the roar of the cruel guns. A young Southern soldier, however, was so touched by those piteous cries that he begged his general to allow him to carry water to the suffering soldiers. The general warned him that it would mean death if he appeared on the battlefield at that time on such an errand. But the youth put no value on his life, and out he went amid shot and shell with his pail of water, going from soldier to soldier, straightening cramped and mangled limbs, putting knapsacks under the heads of sufferers, spreading cloaks and blankets over them, just as though they had been his own comrades. The soldiers of both armies watched the youth as he performed his work of mercy, and they were so touched by the divine courage that heeded not the guns, the roar of the cannon, or the bursting shells all about him, that they ceased firing at each other. For an hour and a half there was a virtual truce while the boy in gray went over the entire battlefield upon his errand of love, giving drink to the thirsty, and comfort to the mangled and the dying. Was there a more beautiful incident than this in the Civil War?
Love has no fear because it is unmindful of self. It thinks only of the welfare of others, of relieving suffering wherever it sees it. Its physical courage in exposing itself to personal harm is only equaled by its moral courage in braving comment or criticism.
A Boston lady, while doing her Christmas shopping, noticed on the street, collecting contributions for the poor, a Salvation Army girl who looked very cold and tired. The lady asked her if she would not like to rest and have something to eat. The girl said she was very hungry and tired, but that she could not leave her post. Whereupon the lady offered to take the girl's pole standard and pot, and sent her away to a restaurant for a warm dinner and rest. The curious passing crowd stopped to look at the well-dressed woman with handsome furs ringing the bell by the Salvation Army contribution pot. And guessing the object of her presence there, they began to put in their nickels and dimes, and many a dollar bill also went into the pot. Friends and acquaintances of the temporary collector passed while she stood there, and, knowing her kindly heart, added their contributions, so that the pot held a goodly sum that night.
A spectator remarked that not one woman in a thousand would have done that. But why not? Why shouldn't we all do such things?
The most beautiful thing in the world is spontaneous service, kindly acts of love and service to one another. "I wonder," says someone, "why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered. How superabundantly it pays itself back - for there is no debtor in the world so honorable, so superbly honorable, as love. 'Love never faileth.' Love is success, love is happiness, love is life."
Happiness has been defined as "great love and much service." It is certain that no efforts we may ever make can bring such splendid returns as the endeavor to scatter the flowers of love and service as we go along, to plant roses instead of thorns; no investment will pay such rich dividends as kind words and kindly acts, the effort to radiate a loving spirit toward every living creature.
There are some great-hearted souls who are always giving out of their best without any thought of getting a return. They are always unconsciously serving the strongest.
I have read of one of these, a poor man who dreamed one night that he went to Paradise, and who was so surprised to find himself there that he began to apologize profusely for his intrusion. He said he knew he was out of place, that he had no business there, because he had never during his life earned anything so glorious, and that, in fact, it was a presumption on his part even to look within the gates of Paradise.
He pleaded his inability to do anything to win him such a great favor, protesting that he was a very poor man, just an ordinary, everyday workman, who had no standing in society on the earth. He had tried to live honestly, he said, to do his work faithfully, to bring up his children as they should be brought up, and to be kind to his neighbors, but as to any right to enter Paradise, he could not understand how he had presumed to do such a thing.
But the angel at the gate said to him: "My friend, do not depreciate yourself. Do you not remember how you saved a poor woman's home when it took nearly the last dollar you had in the savings bank? Nor how you helped a poor orphan child who had no home when you could scarcely take care of your own children? Nor, again, how you befriended many poor people even before you had a home of your own, and. continually made sacrifices of your own comfort, in order to give of your necessities to help others?"
"These and many other things like them," added the angel, "are what brought you here. You came because you had a right to; you belong here."
"But," still protested the embarrassed, man, "I never founded colleges, or hospitals, or gave money to charitable institutions, as Mr. Blank, the man for whom I worked, did."
"Ah," said the angel, "it is not these things which the rich and powerful give out of their abundance that gain entrance here; it is the little nameless acts of kindness and love, the self-sacrificing service performed in the common ordinary situations in life; it is the love that gives itself, the spirit of unselfishness, that opens the gates of Paradise to mortals." Marcus Aurelius said that the more we love the nearer we are to God. Of course, he meant love in the highest, the truest, and the purest sense.
When we love thus, and are the most just, the most honest, the purest and cleanest we know how to be, we are the nearest to divinity. Such love puts us in touch with the best. It allies us with all that is beautiful, noble, highest, and most unselfish; with the loftiest sentiments, the highest principles, all that is finest in life. It is the golden key which gives us access to the holy of holies. This love is, indeed, the connecting link between man and his God.