Cheerfulness and Courage
THE habit of good cheer is one of the greatest assets of success. No matter what of plenty may come to us, if we have not been each day extracting the full flavor of what we now have we cannot be said to have succeeded in the real business of living. How many there are of whom it may be said, “They spend so much time making a living that they have no time to live.” They have kept their mind only on the work, only on the problem, only on the friction, only on the worry.
One can decide on which side of the road he will travel. There is a gloomy side and there is a sunny side. Two people working at the same job can often be seen traveling the same road—but on opposite sides. The cheerless one lives in the world of friction, care, burdened responsibility. There is always a cloud if one searches the sky, and it is not difficult to scrape up two! In one of her lectures, Harriet Louella McCullom tells of coming in one day to find her mother very much depressed. “What’s the matter, mother?” she called out gayly. “Keep still, daughter,” was the peevish answer, “But what’s the trouble, mother?” “There you go again, oh, dear! you’ve made me forget what I was worrying about!”
The influence of cheerfulness upon success is well shown in time of war. Dr. Alexander Irvine told me one day how he was called by Lloyd George in an important crisis of the war to go to France and make speeches to “the boys” to keep up the morale. For several years he was whisked up and down the lines in an automobile, pumping out of his great heart the life- giving stream of good-cheer, of faith, and optimism which did so much to inspire the six million men who heard his voice.
What is morale but cheerful expectancy, the belief in one’s cause, and the conviction of its triumph?
The optimist says, “It might be worse.” The pessimist says, “It’s going to be.” The former encourages, “We’ll pull out.” The latter answers, “We can’t. I’m all in.”
When I was in Providence, Rhode Island, I learned of an old lady whom they all call “Auntie,” who has the cheerful habit of saying, “It might be worse.” One day a young man said to her, “Auntie, I had a fearful dream last night.” “That’s too bad, sonny, but it might have been worse.” “But, Auntie, I dreamed I died.” “It might have been worse.” “Oh, but I dreamed I went to hell.” “Too bad, sonny, too bad; but it might have been worse.” “Why, Auntie, how could it have been worse?” “It might not have been a dream!”
I do not suppose that every cloud has a silver lining, but the vast majority of the clouds we see are not so black nor so dangerous as we allow ourselves to imagine. It may be only heat lightning we see and there is no danger of a bolt striking us, yet many rush to the cellar and hide in the coal bin. How much better to say with Lincoln in even the darkest hour, “This too shall pass away.”
Let the howlers and professional pessimists go on with their howling. Let them yowl! Even at the midnight hour, lie still, and someone else will hurl his boots and brushes into the back yard, and you will be spared in three ways. 1. The noise will cease. 2. You will be saved from getting up. 3. Your boots will be ready for you in the morning.
Cheerfulness will enable you to see the brighter side, even though not the funny side. I do not recommend the trifling attitude of mind that makes a joke of everything. We need not be shallow and we need not be cynical, but we can be cheerful and courageous.
Above all we can exercise care in the choice of our companionships and our newspapers. There are minds whose thoughts run in turgid streams, there are papers across whose pages the yellow filth of the social gutter is allowed to spread; but the efficient prophylactic is a
refusal to hear or see that which exudes its unwholesome contagion.
Cleanness, cheerfulness, courage! Against this wall of defense the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” will be blunted and broken.
Do not accept the negative into your consciousness for you begin to express what you think. If others say that times are hard, that the way is dangerous, that the future is black, let them accept their own suggestions, buy their own stove polish, and spill it all over the house.
“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done, But he, with a chuckle, replied
That maybe it couldn’t, but he would be one Who wouldn’t say so, ‘til he tried.
So he buckled right in with a bit of a grin On his face. If he worried, he hid it;
He started to sing as he tackled the thing That couldn’t be done, and HE DID IT!
“There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, There are thousands to prophecy failure,
There are thousands to point to you one by one The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin. Just take off your coat and go for it.
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing That cannot be done, and YOU’LL DO IT!”