Our Notes

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Helping Hand of Helpfulness. December 1916


Another bit of musing from the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder...

I know a little band of friends that calls itself a women's club. The avowed purpose of this club is study, but there is an undercurrent of deeper, truer thing than even culture and self-improvement. There is no obligation, and there are not promises; but in forming the club and in selecting new members, only those are chosen who are kind-hearted and dependable as well as the possessors of a certain degree of intelligence and a small amount of that genius which is the capacity for careful work. In short, those who are taken into membership are those who will make good friends, and so they are a little band who are each for all and all for each.

Cooperation, helpfulness, and fair dealing are so badly needed in the world, and if they are not learned as children at home, it is difficult for grown-ups to have a working knowledge of them.

If one needs the helping hand of comradeship, not one but all are eager and willing to help, with financial aid if needed, but more often with a good word or a small act of kindness. They are getting so in the habit of speaking good words that I expect to see them all develop into Golden Gossips.

Ever hear of golden gossip? I read of it some years ago. A woman who was always talking about her friends and neighbors made it her business to talk of them, in fact, never said anything but good of them. She was by all means a gossip, but it was "golden gossip." This woman's club seems to be working the same way and associations of friendship and mutual helpfulness are being built up which will last for life. It is a beautiful hing, and more than ever one is impressed with the idea that it is a pity there are--

So many gods, so many creeds.
so many paths that wind and wind
When just the art of being kind
is all the sad world needs

"Money is the root of all evil," says the proverb, but I think the proverb maker only dug down part of the way around that plant of evil. If he had really gotten to the root of the matter, I am sure he would have found that root to be selfishness -- just selfishness pure and simple. Why all the mad scramble for money? Why are we all "money mad Americans"? It is just for our selfish gratification with things that money can buy, from world dominion to a stick of striped candy. Selfishness, just selfishness.

Not long ago, I was visiting in a family where there were several children. The father had lost his memorandum book and was inquiring for it. No one had seen it. "I wish," he said, "that you children would find it for me before I come back at noon." There was silence for a moment, then one of the children said: "Why don't you put up a quarter? That'll find it!"

"Well. I will," said his father and at once the children were all eagerness in searching. It seemed to me such a pity to appeal to a selfish interest in the home where there should be loving service given freely.

In the blacksmith shop, one hot day last summer, the blacksmith was sweating over his hot irons when two idle boys sauntered in and over to the water bucket. It was empty.  "Ain't yuh got no water?" asked one of the boys.

"Not if the bucket is empty," answered the blacksmith.

The man for whom the blacksmith was working spoke up. "Why don't you go get a bucket of water?" he asked.

"I will for a nickel," agreed the other boy.

"Were you going to pay for your drink?" asked the man innocently, and the boys looked at him surprised then slunk away without filling the bucket. Just an example of elfishness made more contemptible by being so plain unfair.

Cooperation, helpfulness, and fair dealing are so badly needed in the world., and if they are not learned as children in the home, it is difficult for grown-ups to have a working knowledge of them.

So much depends on starting the children right!

Do you understand the premise Ms. Wilder is getting at here? It's so basic...if everyone spoke encouraging words to one another, lifted them when down by either word or deed, and followed that golden rule of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' what a better world we would live in. A smile to everyone you pass, a kind word when a spirit seems down-trodden, a simple "I'm thinking of you today" to a friend, a co-worker, or a stranger who isn't smiling or as brisk in their step as they should be. 

Do your children offer to help with the chores of another? Do they ask without prompting if there is something they can do to help a family member or a neighbor? Or do you need to push them into service, or worse, bribe them or bargain with them to get assistance? Imagine what kind of world we would have if everyone sought out ways to be of service to each other? Where families were eager to stop what they were doing themselves and lend a hand to another whenever they saw a need? 

It's winter....How many older people in your neighborhood need assistance with shoveling a driveway or sidewalk this winter? Where are you, or your children while the need is there? Too many are sitting inside, warm and comfortable unaware...though not totally unaware of the need outside their own door. 

We don't have communities of "neighborly" folks these days. Everyone stays inside, secluded from any needs their neighbors may have. If they even know their neighbors name. Once, not more than even a generation back, neighborhoods worked together and were a help and encouragement to each other. It's sad those days are gone. Everyone is wrapped up in their own busyness these days and claim they don't have time to get out into their community and help out. If you're using your snowblower or snowplow to do your own driveway and your neighbor is struggling with a shovel, how much time would it really take for you to go lend an hand or offer your services out of a sense of duty and kindness? If your children are sitting around the TV or the XBox, what are they learning about being a service to another in need?

When my husband first started working away from home, our then-church family was all encouragement and kindness, telling him he had nothing to worry about leaving his family home for a month at a time, anything the children and I couldn't handle, they would be there to help. I don't ask for help. I've got children and myself and we can manage a great deal, mainly out of necessity, but I did have a plumbing issue when a water pipe split and I called to ask some questions and ask for some help in the repair as i'm definitely not a plumber. Everyone was busy, so I thanked them and we set about trying to figure out exactly what we needed to do and how to do it ourselves. In town picking up parts and materials, we ran into 2 of the men we had contacted. Were they busy, I have no idea and it's not my business. We have only asked for help a small handful of other times since, and have been met with the same response. It's definitely pushed us to be more sufficient on our own, and I suppose an up-side is that my children have certainly learned skills they might not have otherwise, but it's a bit disheartening when help is offered then rescinded when a need is presented. 

We all have busy lives, but if we are too busy to lend a helping hand to a neighbor or friend, we have become a sorry group. 

Blessings from Abundant Blessings Homestead

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When the Blues Descend, Musings from Laura Ingalls Wilder

                                       Musings from Laura Ingalls Wilder, August 1920

The whole world was a deep, dark blue, for I had waked with a grouch that morning. While blue is without a doubt a heavenly color, it is better in the skies than in one's mind; for when the blues descend upon a poor mortal on earth, life seems far from being worth the living.

I didn't want to help with the chores; I hated to get breakfast; and the prospect of doing up the morning's work afterward was positively revolting. Beginning the usual round of duties --under protest-- I had a great many thoughts about work and none of them was complimentary to the habit. But presently my mind took a wider range and became less personal as applied to the day just beginning.

First I remembered the old, old labor law, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of The Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work." (Exodus 20:9-10) 

It used to be impressed upon us as most important that we must rest on the seventh day. This doesn't seem to be necessary any longer. We may not, "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy" but we'll not forget to stop working. With our present attitude toward work, the emphasis should be put upon "Six days shalt thou labor" and if we stick it out and work the six days, we will rest on the seventh without any arguing. Given half a chance, we will take Saturday off also and any other day or part of a day we can manage to sneak, besides which the length of a work day is shrinking and shrinking for everyone except farmers, and they are hoping to shorten theirs.

But really the old way was best, for it takes about six days of work to give just the right flavor to a 
day off. As I thought of all these things, insensibly, my ideas about work changed. I remembered the times of enforced idleness when recovering from an illness and how I longed to be busily at work again. Also I recollected a week of vacation that I once devoted to pleasure during which I suffered more than the weariness of working while I had none of it's satisfaction. For there is a great satisfaction in work well done, the thrill of success in a task accomplished.

I got the thrill at the moment that my kind reached the climax. The separator was washed. It is a job that I especially dislike, but while my mind had been busy far afield, my hands had performed their accustomed task with none of the usual sense of unpleasantness, showing that, after all, it is not so much the work we do with our bodies that makes us tired and dissatisfied as the work we do with our mind.

We have been, for so long, thinking of labor as a curse upon man that, because of our persistently inking of it as such, it has very nearly become so.

There has always been a great deal of misplaced pity for Adam because of his sentence to hard labor for life when really that was all that saved him after he was deported from paradise, and it is the only thing that has kept his descendants as safe and sane even as they are.

There is nothing wrong with God's plan that man should earn his bread by the sweat ofhis brow. The wrong is in our own position only. In trying to shirk while we "let George do it," we bring upon ourselves our own punishment; for in the attitude we take toward our work, we make of it a burden instead if the blessing it might be.

Work is like other good things in that it should not be indulged in to excess, but a reasonable amount that is of value to one's self and to the world, as is any honest, well-directed labor, need never descend into drudgery.

It is a tonic and an inspiration and a reward unto itself. For the sweetness of life lies in usefulness like honey deep in the heart of a clover bloom.

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