Full many a gem, of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
How many young men for whom nature has done so much, “blush unseen,” and waste their ability. Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” We have seen how Franklin used his time. Born the son of a soap-boiler, lived to become one of our most noted philosophers, died worth thousands. Advice from such men carries conviction, for we cannot but feel that our chances are fully equal to what theirs were.
Gladstone, England’s most noted Premier, once said, “Believe me when I tell you that thrift of time will repay you in after-life with usury, but the waste of it will make you dwindle away until you fairly sink out of existence, unknown, unmourned.” Thurlow Weed was so poor in boyhood that he was of necessity glad to use pieces of carpet to cover his all but freezing feet; thus shod he walked two miles to borrow a history of the French revolution, which he mastered stretched prone before the sap-fire, while watching the kettles of sap transformed to maple sugar. Thus was it that he laid the foundation of his education, which in after years enabled him to sway such mighty power at Albany; known as the “king maker.”
Elihu Burritt, a child of poverty, the son of a poor farmer, the youngest of ten children. He was apprenticed at eighteen to a blacksmith. He wanted to become a scholar and bought some Greek and Latin works, carrying them in his pocket and studying as he worked at the anvil. From these he went to Spanish, Italian and French. He always had his book near him and improved every spare moment. He studied seven languages in one single year. Then he taught school one year, but his health failing, he went into the grocery business. Soon what money he had was swept away by losses.
Here we see him at twenty-seven, life seemingly a failure. Alas! how many would have given up. He left New Britain, his native town, walked to Boston, and from there to Worcester, where he once more engaged himself at his trade. His failure in business turns his attention once more to study. He now is convinced as to the proper course to pursue, his aim is fixed, and he now sets himself strenuously about the accomplishment of his purpose. At thirty years of age he is master of every language of Europe, and is turning his attention to those of Asia, such as Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldaic. He is offered by a wealthy gentleman a course in Harvard University, but prefers to work with his hands while he studies.
He now begins to lecture, and everybody is eager to hear the learned blacksmith. After a very successful tour he returns to the anvil. After this he visits Europe, becomes the warm friend of John Bright and other eminent men; writes books, lectures, edits newspapers, builds a church and holds meetings himself. He said: “It is not genius that wins, but hard work and a pure life.” He chose the best associates only, believing that a boy’s companions have much to do with his success in life. At sixty-eight he died, honored by two hemispheres.
If our readers want further proof as to the result of improving spare moments, let them study the lives of such men as Douglass, Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, Blaine, Cleveland, and others too numerous to mention, and they will find that they were reared in the lower walks of life, but by using every available minute they have been enabled to rise to influence and usefulness. By this means they have worked the very odds and ends of time, into results of the greatest value. An hour every day, for ten years, will transform any one of ordinary ability from ignorance to learning.
Think of it. One hour could be easily improved each evening, counting three hundred week days to a year; in ten years you have spent three thousand golden hours. If directed toward some specific end, think what it would accomplish. Then there are the Sundays devoted to religious knowledge. One of the first things to be learned by him who would succeed, is Economy of time. Lost wealth can be replaced by industry; lost health by hygiene; but lost time is gone forever.
The most frequent excuse one hears is: “I have no time.” They cheat themselves with the delusion that they would like to do this or that, but cannot as they have no leisure. Dear reader, did you ever think that the more a person has to do, the more they feel they can do? Look at the men in our own community who have done the most for mankind; are they the wealthy, whose only duty seems to be to kill time? No. Almost universally they are the over-worked class who seem already burdened with cares. These are the men who find time to preside at public meetings, and to serve on committees.
It is easier for an over-worked man to do a little more than for a lazy one to get up steam. A light stroke will keep a hoop in motion, but it takes a smart blow to start it. The busy man succeeds: While others are yawning and stretching, getting their eyes open, he will see the opportunity and improve it. Complain not that you have no leisure. Rather be thankful that you are not cursed with it. Yes, curse it is nine times out of ten. Think of the young man going to some vile place of amusement to kill time, then think of that young man utilizing that hour every night in the acquisition of knowledge which will fit him for life’s journey. Think also of the money he will save. Leisure is too often like a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways.