Chapter XV

Some of Labor's Compensations

Optin Page: Goal Mastery For Personal And Financial AchievementAlthough it is better for every young man, if possible, to adhere to one thing, yet, as we shall see when we come to treat of the life of that remarkable man Peter Cooper, change does not necessarily mean vacillation. For the mere sake of consistency a man would be foolish who neglected a good chance to succeed in another field. Edison started life as a newsboy, but it would be folly to say that he should have stuck to that very respectable, but not usually lucrative occupation. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was an artist till middle life. Alexander T. Stewart and James Gordon Bennett, the one a most successful journalist, and the other the greatest merchant of his day, began life as school-teachers. And so we might continue the list; but even these examples do not warrant the belief that a change of calling is necessary to success, but rather that the change may increase the chances. As a rule, however, the changes have been forced by unforeseen circumstances, of which these strong men were quick to see the advantages.

In beginning the life journey, as in starting out on a day's journey, it is of great importance to have a destination in view. In every effort there should be kept in mind the end to be attained--an ideal to achieve which every faculty must be enlisted.

Men whose lives have been eminently successful tell us that their greatest reward was not found in the accomplishment of their life purpose, but in the slow, but certain advance made from day to day.

The joy of travel does not lie in reaching the destination, but in the companions met with on the journey, the changing scenery through which the traveler passes, and even the inconveniences that break up the monotony of the ordinary routine life. It is so with our life- work. The cradle and the grave mark the beginning and the end of the journey, but the joy of living lies in the varied incident and effort to be met with between the two.

It is well for us that this is so; well for us that we do not have to wait for the reward till the end comes.

We may, as in the cases named, change our means of travel, but so long as success is our purpose, it matters not so much what variation we may make in the route, when we seek to attain it.

The old-fashioned country school debating societies had one subject that never lost its popularity, and on which the rural orators exhausted their eloquence and ingenuity: "Resolved, that there is more happiness in participation than in anticipation." We doubt if any debating society ever settled the question, in a way that would be acceptable to all. As a rule the younger people decided, irrespective of the argument, that participation was the most desirable; but the older people wisely shook their heads and took the other side of the case.

Often when the end has been gained, it has been discovered that the reward was not worth the effort, and that the full compensation was gained in the peace, the regular habits, the health, and the sense of duty well-performed which kept up the hope and the strength during the long years of toil.

There is a temperance in eating, as well as in drinking; even honest labor when carried to an excess that impairs the powers of mind and body, may be classed with intemperance; indeed, it should be a part of every young man's course of self-study to learn his own physical and mental limitations.

There is everything in knowing how to work, and in learning when to rest. One of the rewards of judicious labor, and by no means the least of them is--health. Health is not only essential to the happiness of ourselves and of those with whom we come into contact, but no permanent success can be won without it.

Benjamin Franklin, himself a model of industry and of good health, even in old age, says:

"I have always worked hard, but I have regarded as sinful the haste and toil that sap the health. There is reason why disease should seize on the idler, but the industrious man, whose toil is well- regulated, should have no occasion for a physician, unless in case of accident. Labor, like virtue, is its own reward."

In looking over the callings of people who have retained all their powers to an age so long beyond the allotted time as to seem phenomenal, there is not one case that we can recall where the life has not been distinguished for temperance, orderliness, and persistent but temperate industry.

The health that waits upon labor is among its best results, as it must continue to be among its greatest blessings. More particularly is health to be derived from out-door employment, as life on the farm and an active participation in its many and varied labors. Physical exercise is essential to health, under any and all circumstances, whether it be in the nature of labor or recreation. It must be borne in mind, however, that in labor are to be found the surest correctives of many abuses of health, as bringing into play influences of the more satisfactory sort upon the mind as considered in contrast to idleness. Idleness is the parent of many vices, some one says, and it is true. The freedom from the annoying reflection that one is making no use of physical or mental abilities to secure protection from want and suffering, sweetens labor and gives it a value which all true men must appreciate and carefully consider. How often have the wearied journalist and accountant, tired out in body and mind at the desk of unremitting application, found, in the life and labor of the farm and shop, relief and a return to the blessings of health.

There are other occupations and employments just as necessary, but many of them are pursued under considerations not leading to, but rather away from, health. Any one, however, may take from business enough time for rest and healthful exercise. It is in purifying and driving away from man the tendencies to evil that, in idleness, prey too continually and strongly upon him, and which he cannot long successfully resist, that labor possesses its greatest benefit. The atmosphere of diligent labor usefully directed is always of a healthy nature. Into it cannot enter the many foes that assail the idle, who have not the shield of protection that labor gives to all who enter its hallowed gateway. Labor dignifies and ennobles when in moderation; it permits the enjoyment of comforts and luxuries, and gives to home its sacred charm; it dashes away the bitter cup of poverty, and gives instead the nourishing and acceptable food of contentment; it dispels dread conceits of coming evil, and dries the tears of the afflicted. Labor is man's heaven-born heritage in exchange for the curse of disobedience, and yet men are ungrateful and disposed to quarrel with their truest friends. What truer and better friend can anyone possess than useful labor, the key that unlocks the casket of wisdom and exposes to our startled gaze the treasures that lie within? For every honest and determined end of labor there is sure reward. "There is no reward without toil" is a proverb as old as history and as true to-day as when it first found lodgment in the minds and hearts of men. The faithful servant of labor hears in every blow he strikes the sure sound of the power committed to him and which will bring him the fine gold of merited approval.

The health in labor, considered in all of the relations attaching to it, further brings a comfort and satisfaction which cannot be too highly estimated. The surest remedy that can be applied, when men are suffering from defeat in business and the attendant consequences, is renewed and persistent labor. Who can measure the value of labor? It is a possession that cannot be stolen, and only ceases to serve when men, from exhausted energies or enfeebled age, can no longer command it. From the beginning to the end of life it waits upon us, and whoever will use it will not be deprived of its wonderful and magnificent bounties.

As labor is man's greatest blessing, so is indolence his greatest curse. As labor is health, so indolence is disease. Man in a condition of idleness is about as useless a thing as is to be found in nature. He prefers to live by some one else's labor. The world owes him a living and he manages somehow to get it. But he is an industrious collector, although he would walk a mile to get around work. He attaches himself, like the mistletoe, to whoever will support him. He is a true parasite. His tongue has but little end to it. It wags from morning to night; invents seemingly plausible theories of work, but never attempts them. He is full of advice to all who will listen. Can such a man be healthy? He cannot enjoy good health because he is too lazy to do so. No way has as yet been found to make him healthy and put him to work. He cannot be got rid of. People who labor and who are compelled to help this poor creature do not make much effort to turn him in the direction of labor. They are too busy to take any account of him; so he is left to his misery and poverty. He has not a grain of independence in his whole composition. He pines and dies at last, and the world is better for his being out of it.

But like mushrooms, these people spring up. Many infest our large cities, and these are dignified by the city directories as "floating population." The term is very nearly correct; they float for a time upon the current, until borne away to another port where there is better and safer anchorage. Where free lunches are abundant there the idler may be found. For this privilege he is sometimes obliged to do a little work. But how it grieves him! His whole aim is to get drink, a little food, and less clothing. He of course, uses tobacco; but this he must obtain in some way that does not call for money, for of that he has none and never can have, unless he go to work--and this is highly improbable. He has got to that point that he cannot work. He is too unhealthy and his influence is corrupting. Nobody will give him employment, so he must keep on to the end of the chapter. An even more disgusting specimen is the idler who develops into a sneakthief and the more genteel sort of gentry-- gamblers and workers of chances. These are, perhaps, to be included in the list of those who live by their wits and not by any kind of labor.

If there is any worse disease than idleness, it has not yet been discovered. Good and true men, who value the rewards of labor, look upon idleness with a dread that equals that of yellow fever; for it is more general in its effects and more to be detested. While there may sometimes be luck in leisure, indolence never pays.

But the effects of persistent, systematic effort are not confined to ourselves; the example is contagious and acts as a guide and a stimulus to others in the life battle. The good done and the help given to friends in this way are incalculable, and are not the least of the rewards labor bestows before the end is attained.

Dr. Miller in his able work "The Building of Character," says very aptly in this connection:

"We all need human friendship. We need it especially in our times of darkness. He does not well, he lives not wisely, who in the days of prosperity neglects to gather about his life a few loving friends, who will be a strength to him in the days of stress and need."

There is a time to show sympathy, when it is golden; when this time has passed, and we have only slept meanwhile, we may as well sleep on. You did not go near your friend when he was fighting his battle alone. You might have helped him then. What use is there in your coming to him now, when he has conquered without your aid? You paid no attention to your neighbor when he was bending under life's loads, and struggling with difficulties, obstacles, and adversities. You let him alone then. You never told him that you sympathized with him. You never said a brave, strong word of cheer to him in those days. You never even scattered a handful of flowers on his hard path. Now that he is dead and lying in his coffin, what is the use in your standing beside his still form, and telling the people how nobly he battled, how heroically he lived; and speaking words of commendation? No, no; having let him go on, unhelped, uncheered, unencouraged, through the days when he needed so sorely your warm sympathy, and craved so hungrily your cheer, you may as well sleep on and take your rest, letting him alone unto the end. Nothing can be done now. Too laggard are the feet that come with comfort when the time for comfort is past.

"Ah! woe for the word that is never said
  Till the ear is deaf to hear;
And woe for the lack to the fainting head
  Of the ringing shout of cheer;
Ah! woe for the laggard feet that tread
  In the mournful wake of the bier.
A pitiful thing the gift to-day
  That is dross and nothing worth,
Though if it had come but yesterday,
  It had brimmed with sweet the earth;
A fading rose in a death-cold hand,
  That perished in want and dearth."

Shall we not take our lesson from the legend of the robin that plucked a thorn from the Savior's brow, and thus sought to lessen his pain, rather than from the story of the disciples, who slept and failed to give the help which the Lord sought from their love? Thus can we strengthen those whose burdens are heavy, and whose struggles and sorrows are sore.

All noble effort, as Sarah K. Bolton beautifully expresses it, is its own reward:

"I like the man who faces what he must
With step triumphant and a heart of cheer;
Who fights the daily battle without fear;
Sees his hopes fail, yet keeps unfaltering trust
That God is God; that, somehow, true and just,
His plans work out for mortals; not a tear
Is shed when fortune, which the world holds dear,
Falls from his grasp. Better, with love, a crust,
Than living in dishonor; envies not
Nor loses faith in man; but does his best,
Nor ever murmurs at his humbler lot;
But with a smile and words of hope, gives zest
To every toiler. He alone is great
Who, by a life heroic, conquers fate."

"After I have completed an invention," says Thomas A. Edison, "I seem to lose interest in it. One might think that the money value of an invention constituted its reward to the man who loves his work. But, speaking for myself, I can honestly say this is not so. Life was never so full of joy to me, as when a poor boy I began to think out improvements in telegraphy, and to experiment with the cheapest and crudest appliances. But, now that I have all the appliances I need, and am my own master, I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success."

Mr. Gladstone, the great English statesman, and though nearing four score and ten, still one of the most industrious of men, says:

"I have found my greatest happiness in labor. I early formed the habit of industry, and it has been its own reward. The young are apt to think that rest means a cessation from all effort, but I have found the most perfect rest in changing effort. If brain-weary over books and study, go out into the blessed sunlight and the pure air, and give heartfelt exercise to the body. The brain will soon become calm and rested. The efforts of nature are ceaseless. Even in our sleep, the heart throbs on. If these great forces ceased for an instant death would follow. I try to live close to nature, and to imitate her in my labors. The compensation is sound sleep, a wholesome digestion, and powers that are kept at their best; and this I take it is the chief reward of industry."

"If I ever get time from work," said Horace Greeley one day, "I'll go a-fishing, for I was fond of it when a boy." But he never went a-fishing, never indulged in a healthful change of exercise, and the result was a mind thrown out of balance, and death in the prime of life. We all need a restful change at times.

A Review of "How to Get On in Life"

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Chapter XVI - Patience and Perseverance


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