Stories Worth Rereading: The Right Word

An instance of the transforming power of the right word is furnished by the following incident:—

Many years ago a minister was passing through a prison crowded with convicts showing every phase of ignorance and brutality. One gigantic fellow crouched alone in a corner, his feet chained to a ball. There was an unhealed wound on his face, where he had been shot when trying to escape. The sight of the dumb, gaunt figure touched the visitor.

“How long has he to serve?” he asked of the guard.

“For life.”

“Has he anybody outside to look after him—wife or child?”

“How should I know? Nobody has ever noticed him all the time he has been here.”

“May I speak to him?”

“Yes, but only for a minute.”

The minister hesitated. What could he say in one minute? He touched the man’s torn cheek.

“I am sorry,” he said. “I wish I could help you.”

The convict looked keenly at him, and he nodded to indicate that he believed in the sympathy expressed.

“I am going away, and shall never see you again, perhaps; but you have a
Friend who will stay here with you.”

The keen, small eyes were upon him. The prisoner dragged himself up, waiting and eager.

“Have you heard of Jesus?”


“He is your friend. If you are good and true, and will pray to God to help you, I am sure he will care for you.”

“Come, sir,” called the keeper. “Time’s up.”

The clergyman turned sorrowfully away. The prisoner called after him, and, catching his hand, held it in his own while he could. Tears were in the preacher’s eyes.

Fourteen years passed. The convict was sent into the mines. The minister went down one day into a mine, and among the workmen saw a gigantic figure bent with hardship and age.

“Who is that?” he asked the keeper.

“A lifer, and a steady fellow—the best of the gang.”

Just then the “lifer” looked up. His figure straightened, for he had recognized the clergyman. His eyes shone.

“Do you know me?” he said. “Will He come soon? I’ve tried to be good.”

At a single word of sympathy the life had been transformed, the convict redeemed.


A Friend

A friend—how much it means
To be so true
In all we do
That others speak of us as such,
And call us by that noble name.

A friend—how much it means
To have a friend
Who’ll gladly lend
A helping hand to help us on
When weary seems the path we tread.

A friend—may we be such to Christ,
Who gladly gave,
Our lives to save.
His life a willing sacrifice,
And showed himself a friend of men.