And so you see that it is very important for you to get good habits as boys and girls, for first you make the habits, and then the habits make you.
You have often seen a little brook running along between its banks and over its pebbly bed. Well, once there was no brook-bed there, but gradually, years ago, a little stream began to trickle through, and finally it wore out a bed for itself. Now it cannot leave the bed if it wishes to. That is just what you do when you make a habit: you make a course which you will follow later in life.
First you take the train, then the train takes you. First the stream makes the bed, then the bed guides the stream.
They tell us that after we are thirty years of age we are little more than a bundle of habits. I suppose thirty years seems a long way off for you boys and girls, but you will reach it if you live. And there will be men living somewhere who will hear the name that you boys now have, and you are deciding now by the habits you make what sort of man he is going to be. If you want him to be a good, honorable, strong man, be sure you form good habits now.
I read a story recently of how a young man got his start in life through being courteous. This young man was an assistant doorkeeper in the capitol at Washington. His work was to direct people where they wanted to go in that great building.
One day he overheard a stranger ask one of the other doorkeepers for help in finding one of the senators from California. The doorkeeper answered in a very discourteous way that it was none of his business where the senators were.
“But can’t you help me?” the stranger said. “I was sent over here because he was seen to come this way.”
“No, I can’t,” the doorkeeper answered. “I have trouble enough looking after the representatives.”
The stranger was about to turn away when an assistant, who had overheard the conversation, said: “If you are from California, you have come a long way, I will try to help you.” Then he asked him to take a seat, and hurried off in search of the senator.
He soon brought him to the stranger, who then gave his card to the doorkeeper and asked him to call at his hotel that evening.
That stranger was Collis P. Huntington, who was a great railroad official in those days.
When the doorkeeper called upon him that night, Mr. Huntington offered him a position at nearly twice the salary he was then receiving. He accepted the new position and was rapidly promoted from that time on.
The lesson I would have you learn from this is that you never know when a good deed is going to return to you. I don’t mean that you should be courteous, expecting that you are going to be paid for it each time, for the greatest pay for kindness is just the feeling that you have helped someone. As the old saying goes, “Civility costs nothing,” and on the other hand, you never gain anything by getting the ill-will of anybody or anything, even of a dog. Be courteous: it is the mark of a gentleman, of a lady, and it is often the passport to success.