Then she said: “Now look here, boys, do you suppose that Uncle James likes his snapping any better than we do?”
“If he does not like it why does he do it?” answered the boys.
“I cannot tell you that; that is his business and not yours or mine,” said the mother; “but I can prove to you that he does not like it. Bobby, do you remember how you snapped at your brother yesterday, when he accidentally knocked your house over?”
“Yes!” replied Bobby.
“Did you feel comfortable after it?” “You bet I didn’t,” was the quick reply.
“Well,” answered the mother, “you boys stop and think just how disagreeable it is inside of you when you snap, and then think how it would be if you had to feel like that as much as Uncle James does.”
“By golly, but that would be bad,” said the twelve-year-old.
“Now, boys,” went on the mother, “you want to relieve Uncle James’s disagreeable feelings all you can, and don’t you see that you increase them when you do things to annoy him? His snappish feelings are just like a sore that is smarting and aching all the time, and when you get in their way it hurts as if you rubbed the sore. Keep out of his way when you can, and when you can’t and he snaps at you, say: ‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ like gentlemen, and stop doing what annoys him; or get out of his way as soon as you can.”
Uncle James never became less snappish. But the upright, manly courtesy of those boys toward him was like fresh air on a mountain, especially because it had become a habit and was all as a matter of course. The father and mother realized that Uncle James had, unconsciously, made men of their boys as nothing else in the world could have done, and had trained them so that they would grow up tolerant and courteous toward all human peculiarities.
Many times a gracious courtesy toward the “trying member” will discover good and helpful qualities that we had not guessed before. Sometimes after a little honest effort we find that it is ourselves who have been the trying members, and that the other one has been the member tried. Often it is from two members of the family that the trying element comes. Two sisters may clash, and they will generally clash because they are unlike. Suppose one sister moves and lives in big swings, and the other in minute details. Of course when these extreme tendencies are accented in each the selfish temptation is for the larger mind to lapse into carelessness of details, and for the smaller mind to shrink into pettiness, and as this process continues the sisters get more and more intolerant of each other, and farther and farther apart. But if the sister who moves in the big swings will learn from the other to be careful in details, and if the smaller mind will allow itself to be enlarged by learning from the habitually broader view of the other, each will grow in proportion, and two women who began life as enemies in temperament can end it as happy friends.