One day a great lion lay asleep in the sunshine. A little mouse ran across his paw and wakened him. The great lion was just going to eat him up when the little mouse cried, “Oh, please, let me go, sir. Some day I may help you.” The lion laughed at the thought that the little mouse could be of any use to him. But he was a good-natured lion, and he set the mouse free.
Not long after, the lion was caught in a net. He tugged and pulled with all his might, but the ropes were too strong. Then he roared loudly. The little mouse heard him, and ran to the spot. “Be still,” dear Lion and I will set you free. I will gnaw the ropes.” With his sharp little teeth, the mouse cut the ropes, and the lion came out of the net.
“You laughed at me once,” said the mouse. “You thought I was too little to do you a good turn. But see, you owe your life to a poor little mouse.”
Compassion is a virtue that takes seriously the reality of other persons, their inner lives, their emotions, as well as their external circumstances. (The Book of Virtues, William J. Bennett, p.110, 1993)
Lorenzo Snow and his family were part of an exodus from the city of Nauvoo, Illinois. They were being driven out by religious intolerance during a particularly cold winter. With a group of other families, they headed west in the state of Iowa in February 1846. Weather conditions made their trek difficult—day after day they struggled through rain, snow and mud.
As the Snow family traveled one day, a member of the company asked them for help. Lorenzo Snow wrote in his journal that a man “requested that I would let him put his trunk in my wagon, said he could not get it carried anywhere else.” The wagon was “perfectly crowded and as much as seemed we could possibly get along with,” Lorenzo recalled, but “still I told him to put it in and come along and share with us.”
The next night the family experienced what Lorenzo called “a very unpleasant affair”: an axle on their wagon broke. He recounted: “It was raining very hard and was quite cold. We immediately pitched our tent and made a good hickory fire… The water and mud was very deep and we could not get to the wagon without wading… We were now about fifteen miles from the camp and nine or ten to the first house, and none of us being mechanics, the prospect of getting our wagon repaired was not very encouraging.”
Unexpectedly, relief came from the man they had helped the day before. “I was lamenting over my misfortune,” said Lorenzo, “when he came up to me and informed me that his trade was wagon making and could very easily repair my wagon… As soon as the weather would permit, brother Wilson (that being the name of the aforementioned person) went to work and made an axletree much better than the one I broke. Our wagon being repaired, we left this place, having stayed several days on account of rain and mud.”
For Lorenzo Snow, this experience reinforced a valuable lesson about service and fellowship. He wrote in his journal, “Granting one favor often leads to obtaining another.” He went on to say that “We have been sent into the world to do good to others; and in doing good to others we do good to ourselves.” (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, pp.257-265, 2012)
“Let your minds be expanded to comprehend and look after the interests of your friends that are around you,” he said, “and where it is in your power to secure benefits to your friends do so, and in so doing you will find those things which you need will come into your hands quicker than if you labor entirely to secure them yourselves independent of regarding the interests of your friends. I know this is a good and important principle.”
Lorenzo Snow’s “principle” has worked effectively in my life many, many times, especially when I am not thinking about it and least expect it. Just as it helped the lion and the mouse, I believe it will serve you well, also.