In 1909, when American millionaire publisher William Boyce set out for a business appointment, he quickly realized that the warning he had received about the “pea soup” fog in London was no exaggeration. The fog was so thick he could see almost nothing beyond a couple of feet. He soon lost his bearings and became hopelessly lost.
“Just then a boy of about twelve appeared out of the gloom, carrying a lantern. The boy asked him if he could be of assistance. ‘You certainly can,’ said Boyce. He mentioned the address he was seeking and the boy offered to take him there.
“When they arrived at Boyce’s destination, he reached in his pocket for a shilling to give the boy. ‘No thank you, sir,’ he said. ‘I am a Scout. I won’t take anything for helping.’
“‘What is a Scout?’ asked Boyce. The boy told him about the Scouting movement in Britain. Boyce was intrigued. He asked the boy if he would take him to the British Scouting office as soon as his appointment was over. The boy said he would be happy to wait on the steps in the fog. Later at the Scout office, Boyce met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, who had earned fame as a general in the battle of Mafeking in 1899 in the Boer War in South Africa (“On My Honor” by Gov. Rick Perry, 2008). Lord Baden-Powell was instrumental in initiating a movement for boys in Great Britain that was to have implications world-wide.”
That chance meeting between an American millionaire and a twelve-year-old British lad in a dense London fog eventually led to the establishment of the Boy Scouts of America. Ever since then, the motto of the Boy Scouts is “Do a Good Turn Daily.” Everything in the Boy Scout movement is about building character in its members and selfless service is pivotal to that goal.
I can’t count the myriad ways I have been helped throughout my life by those who were willing to brave the fog in my behalf. Will L. Thompson (1847-1909) wrote the words to a popular hymn entitled, “Have I Done Any Good?”
“Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone’s burden been lighter today because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help, was I there?
“…’Tis noble of man to work and to give; Love’s labor has merit alone. Only he who does something helps others to live. To God each good work will be known. Then wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love.” (Hymns, 1985)
Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” asked a distinguished senator to interest himself in the case of a person who needed help. The senator answered, “I have become so busy that I can no longer concern myself with individuals.” She replied, “That’s remarkable. Even God hasn’t reached that stage yet.”
One cold winter day, a ragged little urchin stood on a street corner selling newspapers. His feet were bare and he had no coat. A woman walking by noticed the little boy shivering with cold and insisted that he follow her into a department store where she outfitted him with warm clothing from head to foot.
The boy was putting on the last of his new clothing as the woman paid the bill and slipped quietly out the door. When he finished dressing, he looked for the lady to tell her thank you. But he was told by the clerk that she had gone.
He ran from the store frantically looking up and down the street. He must find the lady to thank her. There she was, walking down the street! He ran quickly to her, took her hand and said, “Lady, why did you go? I wanted to thank you.”
“You’re most welcome, Dear,” she smiled. The little boy then looked up into her face and said solemnly, “Lady, who are you? Are you God’s wife?” “No,” she softly replied. “I’m just one of His children.” “I knew it!” he smiled, with tears in his eyes. “I just knew you were some relation!”
There is an old adage that asks, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” As we enter a new year and contemplate resolutions to improve and to do better, what if everyone made an effort to conform to the Boy Scout motto to do a good turn daily? After all, if we can’t do great things, perhaps we can do small things in a great way.
Abraham Lincoln said, “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” We all know there is plenty of heartache to go around these days. Why not concentrate on helping others and thereby forget some of our own?
May each of us prosper in happiness and joy during the coming year. And remember, the hands that help are holier than lips that merely pray; the combination, however, is unbeatable!