Just Little Things

"THERE are no little things," says Bruce Barton. You might be interested in the whole quotation. Here it is: "Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things-a chance word, a tap on the shoulder, or a penny dropped on a newsstand-I am tempted to think . . . there are no little things."

A few months ago a friend was driving me around in the city of Chicago. Somewhere on the south side, I have forgotten the street and number, he showed me where the great Chicago fire started some years ago. Some one was out milking after dark, and the cow kicked over the lantern. Just a small kerosene lantern it was too-but it started that great fire which left thousands homeless and reduced a great city to just a smoldering heap.

The French submarine Lutin was at one time maneuvering off the coast of Tunis. Time after time it descended into the depths and returned safely to the surface with its proud crew. But joy turned to consternation when it remained beneath the surface longer than was expected. Anxiously the spectators on other vessels nearby looked for some sign of its return. Then rescue attempts were feverishly begun. The French Government did everything within its power, but weeks slipped by before the submarine was raised to the surface, and by that time every man of her crew was found dead. Investigations were begun to find the cause of the disaster. A tiny pebble was found in one of the valves. It was just a small stone, but it had prevented the valve from operating properly, and caused the loss of the submarine and its entire crew.

A young lawyer, just out of school, settled in a town to practice law. There were already too many successful lawyers in the vicinity, and someone asked him if he thought he would make a living. "I may get a little practice," he replied.

"Yes," the questioner replied, "you may, but it will be very little."

"Then," said the young man, "I shall do that well."

The destiny of men and nations really hinges on the little things of life. In Luke 16:10 we read, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."

A bishop, traveling through the country, came to a crossroads settlement of a few houses, among which was a neat little shoe shop owned by an old man, who seemed busy, happy and prosperous. The clergyman, who was interested in finding odd characters in unheard-of places, stopped for a chat.

"My friend," said the bishop, "You seem to be busy and happy. I should not think a shoe shop would be very prosperous in such an out-of-the-way place."

Another gentleman, who happened to be in the little shop, spoke up before the old shoemaker had a chance to answer, and said: "Cato has a monopoly on the shoe mending business in this district. No one else gets any shoe repairing in these parts."

"How do you account for that, Cato?" asked the bishop. "Why does all the shoe repair work come here? People must have to come a long way to bring their shoes to you. What is the explanation?"

"I guess there is no secret about it, mister," said Cato. "It's only little patches put on with little stitches or tiny nails. But when I take a stitch, it is a stitch; and when I drive a nail, it is there to stay." In other words it was another case of little things well done.

Dr. L. K. Hisberg says Napoleon's poor penmanship had much to do with his defeat at Waterloo. He scrawled a note to his lieutenant, Grouchy, intending to say, "The battle is on." And Grouchy couldn't make out the awful penmanship. He deciphered it to be, "The battle is won," so with his thousands of trained veterans he leisurely made his way to Waterloo, only to find that Napoleon had been defeated. How many there are who have been defeated because of carelessness in the little things.

Just a little comma, if put in the wrong place in a sentence, may change the meaning entirely. A buyer for a large business house wired his firm to inquire if he should buy certain merchandise. They replied, "No, price too high." He interpreted it to read, "No price too high," and bought the goods in question. It cost his firm thousands of dollars.

A new tariff bill intended to encourage the cultivation of certain foreign fruit plants of high quality, was introduced to the government. It was passed, and these fruit trees were to be admitted free. The printer got a comma out of place and it read, "Foreign fruit, plants, etc., are to be admitted free." Because a comma was inserted between fruit and plants the government lost thousands of dollars in revenue.

A member of a school board decided to visit the school which he, as a trustee, was helping to manage. On entering the room, he found a class in grammar at the board. One of the boys was having trouble with his punctuation. The teacher rather chided the boy because he couldn't punctuate the sentence correctly. The visitor tried to encourage the lad. "Don't be discouraged, son" he said. "Those commas don't matter a great deal."

One little misplaced comma in the Bible has caused no end of discussion, and has really brought a great difference of opinion among Christian people as to the condition of man after death. You will find the text in Luke 23:43. Jesus, while hanging on the cross, spoke to the penitent thief. In the English Bible His statement is punctuated as follows: "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." Many believe the comma in this sentence is misplaced and that the verse should read, "Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." The placing of that little comma makes a great deal of difference in the interpretation of the verse. (In the King James Bible it is correct).

A famous painting by an old master, a work of art of fabulous worth, was ruined by a small hole in a tile roof. The painting had been carefully guarded, and the building in which it was kept was supposed to be secure. But a driving, beating rain from the east found its way through the imperfect tile, and the painting was ruined. Some workman had doubtless seen the flaw in the tile, but thought that it would not matter.

It is the "little foxes that spoil the vines," the "little leaks which sink a great ship." Little neglects in any life will sooner or later bring regrets.

One writer has said, "The little incidents of every day life often pass without our notice; but it is these things that shape the character."

I am not a prophet, but show me a boy or girl who is careful about the little things, who does not neglect the trifles, who keeps his promises, who is on time for appointments, who performs small tasks well, and I will show you a person who will succeed in life.

Most things of consequence in this world begin small and grow bigger. Great industries of today began in a small way, you will find, if you go back to their beginning. In the early 1890's C. W. Post went to Battle Creek, Michigan, and with a seventy-dollar investment began to make Postum Cereal. Today this mammoth organization sends its products to the ends of the earth.

Florence Nightingale began her nursing career by caring for a wounded collie dog.

A few decades ago a New England farm boy borrowed eighteen dollars from his father, and with the money bought a heifer. He killed and dressed the animal, and from an old covered wagon sold the meat from door to door in the quiet little village of Barnstable, Massachusetts. When he returned home that evening, the wagon was empty, and the young man had thirty-eight dollars in his pocket. He had made a profit of twenty dollars. That boy was Gustave F. Swift, and that was the beginning of the great Swift and Company.

In his book Making Life a Masterpiece, Mr. Marden illustrates the value of little things in a most interesting way. "On the floor of the gold working room in the United States Mint at Philadelphia," says he, "is a wooden lattice-work which is taken up when the floor is swept, and the fine particles of gold dust-valued at thousands of dollars yearly-are saved."

Some years ago some well-meaning person thought he was doing Australia a favor by introducing a few rabbits into the country. Those few rabbits multiplied so rapidly that the country is overrun with the animals. Some other misguided individual thought he was doing as much for North America by introducing some house-sparrows into the United States. You know the end of the story. (The Starlings also have had a bad effect).

Someone once asked why Paderewski was then the greatest of living pianists. The answer is not at all surprising-"Because more than any other, he lingers lovingly on beautiful details in the music he is playing."

A tall, stately giant of the forest, which had stood through the storms of centuries, crashed to earth one still summer day. Rings on its trunk were counted, and they revealed the fact that this great tree was growing when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, yes, when Columbus came to North America. It was more than 500 years old. All those years it had withstood the blizzards of winter, and the hurricanes, the windstorms of summer. Scars showed that it had been struck by lightning a number of times. But why should such a giant crash to earth on a calm summer day?

The heart of the great tree was eaten away. A pair of tiny beetles had bored under the bark. They had worked and multiplied until there were colonies of black beetles working silently toward the heart of the tree. Finally, the life and fiber of the mighty giant were destroyed, and it crashed to earth. It had withstood the storms, the lightning, and the elements for centuries, but a tiny black beetle got into its heart and caused its ruin.

How many people have gone through life neglecting the little things they might do well, and looking longingly for some great deed to be done. How many have withstood the real storms and tempests of temptation, and have fallen over some little sin. We aren't tempted to rob a bank, to murder someone, or to commit some great wrong. But it is so easy to yield to the "little" temptation.

A little word, a little smile, a warm hand clasp, a cup of cold water, may cheer some struggling pilgrim along life's way. A frown, an unkind criticism, may bring discouragement.

If a little sin should ruin your life and keep you out of heaven, it would really not be a little sin after all.