After a few months on the towpath, young Garfield contracted another kind of fever quite unlike that from which he had been suffering previously, and went home to be nursed out of it by his ever faithful mother.
During his convalescence he thought a great deal over his cousin’s words,—“Jim, you’ve got too good a head on you to be a wood chopper or a canal driver.” “He who wills to do anything will do it,” he had learned from his mother’s lips when a mere baby, and then and there he said in his heart, “I will be a scholar; I will go to college.” And so, out of his sea fever and towpath experience was born the resolution that made the turning point in his career.
Action followed hot upon resolve. He lost no time in applying himself to the work of securing an education. Alternately chopping wood and carpentering, farming and teaching school, ringing bells and sweeping floors, he worked his way through seminary and college. His strong will and resolute purpose to make the most of himself not only enabled him to obtain an education, but raised him from the towpath to the presidential chair.
A kindly act is a kernel sown,
That will grow to a goodly tree,
Shedding its fruit when time has flown
Down the gulf of Eternity.
John Boyle O’REILLY.
In the restless desire for acquisition,—acquisition of money, of power, or of fame,—there is danger of selfishness, self-absorption, closing the doors of our hearts against the demands of brotherly love, courtesy, and kindness.
“I cannot afford to help,” say the poor in pocket; “all I have is too little for my own needs.” “I should like to help others,” says the ambitious student, whose every spare moment is crowded with some extra task, “but I have no money, and cannot afford to take the time from my studies to give sympathy or kind words to the suffering and the poor.” Says the busy man of affairs: “I am willing to give money, but my time is too valuable to be spent in talking to sick people or shiftless, lazy ones. That sort of work is not in my line. I leave it to women and the charitable organizations.”
The business man forgets, as do many of us, the truth expressed by Ruskin, that “a little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.” A few kind words, a little sympathy and encouragement have often brought sunshine and hope into the lives of men and women who were on the verge of despair.
The great demand is on people’s hearts rather than on their purses. In the matter of kindness we can all afford to be generous whether we have money or not. The schoolboy may give it as freely as the millionaire. No one is so driven by work that he has not time, now and then, to say a kind word or do a kind deed that will help to brighten life for another. If the prime minister of England, William E. Gladstone, could find time to carry a bunch of flowers to a little sick crossing-sweeper, shall we not be ashamed to make for ourselves the excuse, “I haven’t time to be kind”?