It was a bitter cold day, with a stinging wind blowing. A ragged old woman, worn with toil and bent under a heavy load of odd pieces of kindling wood strapped upon her back, was crossing a street when she saw the wind blow a poor blind organ grinder's hat off into the gutter. Many well-dressed people hurrying by also saw, but they only drew their furs more closely about them and passed on. The old woman stopped. With trembling fingers she untied the rope that bound the big load to her back, laid it down, went and picked up the hat and put it on the blind man's head, remarking, "It has been a pretty bad day. How have you made out?" "Not much doing to-day; the weather's too bad," was the answer.
Looking into the little tin cup which held his pennies, the woman saw it was nearly empty. Putting her hand in her pocket and taking out one of her own few pennies, she dropped it in the cup with a "Good luck" and then, readjusting her load, the good Samaritan went on her way.
This is love's way.
Love is never too burdened to be kind, never too poor to give, never too busy to help. It always finds a way to serve.
There are one hundred and fifty or more blind children in the elementary grades in the New York public schools. These children are being taught to do the same work that their more fortunate brothers and sisters are doing. They are given the same examinations, and are judged by the same standards. They are in the same room with them, and are marked just as impartially. No allowance is made for their handicap.
The teacher who has charge of the blind children says that their whole aim is to make the children forget that they are blind.
This is love's way.
Love seeks to make people forget their troubles and trials, their unfortunate handicaps. Love increases their hope, bids them look forward and upward. It stimulates their ambition and helps them to overcome the obstacle which otherwise would hold them down and embitter their lives.
A poor crippled boy classifies his friends by their tact, or their lack of it, in referring to his misfortunes. He says he often meets people who don't mean to be unkind, but who are constantly reminding him of his defect. They will ask him if he has always been that way; or if there is really no help for it; if it doesn't make him very unhappy, and other equally foolish questions. On the other hand, those who have enough imagination, as well as love, to put themselves in his place, never treat him as though he is inferior physically, or make him feel that he is placed at a disadvantage in life. They never refer to his handicap any more than if it did not exist, and he loves them all the more for their tenderness. These he ranks as his best friends.
Real friends never remind us of personal blemishes or deficiencies. Nor do they upbraid us for our sins or shortcomings. When Elizabeth Fry was doing her marvelous work among the prisoners in London, she was asked by a visitor to the prison what crime a certain girl prisoner had committed. "I never asked her," was the reply. The great-hearted woman didn't want to know the girl's faults or offenses. Her one thought was to help all of the unfortunate women to leave their unhappy past and rise to the height of their possibilities.
This is love's way.
Love does not see the bad in others. It looks for the best, sees only the good. No matter how low a human being may fall, love still sees the God in him.
There is a story that an angel was once sent from heaven to visit London. A guide conducted the celestial visitor through the city. He took him to the best art galleries and museums, to the most beautiful parks and squares, to the historic monuments and public places, to all the show places of the great metropolis. The visitor politely noticed these things, but asked to be taken also to the poorer parts of the city, to the slums. The guide explained that these were such unlovely places, and the people who lived in them so degraded and down fallen, that it would only pain him to see them, and that they had better not go to those wretched quarters. The angel, however, urged that he would like to see all sides of the city; so the two started for the east end of London.
There the guide pointed out to the angel men who had committed the most horrible crimes; women who had fallen so low that there was hardly a semblance of womanhood left, and criminals of all sorts who had been inmates of prisons for many years. Instead of turning from them in disgust, as the guide had expected he would, his companion went among the wretched people with evident pleasure, greeting them cordially, shaking hands with each, and telling them how glad he was to see them. The scandalized guide remonstrated with him, insisting that no respectable person would associate with these miserable creatures. "They are outcasts, ostracized by society," he said, "and shut out from association with all good people."
"It makes no difference," answered the angel. "No matter what these people have done, they are all God's children. They are my brothers and sisters. I have lived with God so long that I can see the God in them. In spite of their condition, I feel my kinship with them. I sympathize with them, I pity, I love them."
This is love's way.
A rich man being asked what act of his life had given him the most real satisfaction, replied that it was the paying off of a little mortgage on a poor woman's home at the moment of a threatened foreclosure. He said that the happy smile, the joy and relief that came to the woman's face when he told her what he was doing had given him more happiness than any of the bigger things he had ever done.
It is not the big things of life, but the aggregate of the little kindnesses, the trifling acts of helpfulness, the few kindly words, the little daily deeds of love, that give us real happiness, that make life worth living. Big things come only now and then in a lifetime, and to comparatively few people; but no matter how poor we are, or how uneventful our lives, we can all be philanthropists of kindness. We can give our smiles, our encouragement, our sympathy to someone who needs them every day in the year. These often mean more to a discouraged soul than does money.
The more we help others, the more closely we touch other lives, the more we expand and grow ourselves, the more love and power come back to us. What Elizabeth Barrett Browning says is literally true:
"A poor man served by thee, shall make thee rich;
A sick man helped by thee, shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense Of service which thou renderest."
Did you ever lose anything by helping the helpless, smoothing the path of the unfortunate? Did you ever regret lightening the burden of the distressed, encouraging those who have lost heart? Did you ever regret the little time, the little effort expended, to scatter sunshine and flowers as you go along life's pathway?