A Strange Old Epitaph
A Talk to Boys Concerning the Narrow Life and the Broad Life—A Contrast.
THE LESSON—That it is all wrong to be satisfied to be a Mr. Nobody. Do your best and be a Mr. Somebody.
The boy whose days in school and whose hours of serious thought in the home have opened his eyes to future years of responsibility, will drink in the sentiment of this talk and remember the lesson when he reaches the twists and corners of life's pathway which lies before him.
(By Chas. D. Meigs.)
"I am going to tell you today of a very narrow man. Suppose we call him Mr. Slim Jim. Later on, I will tell you about Mr. Broadman, and ask you which one you would rather be when you grow up.
"But first, we will turn our minds to a strange old graveyard over in England, a burying ground where there are a good many old tomb-stones like this: [Draw Fig. 128, complete]. If you were to walk among these old gravestones, you would find one there which would make you laugh, even though you were in a cemetery, because the epitaph, on it is the funniest you ever saw or heard of. It says:
"'Here Lies the Body of
He Was Born a Man
Died a Grocer!'
[As you speak the words slowly, draw them on the tombstone, completing Fig. 129.]
"Did you ever hear anything to beat that? Now, that isn't anything against grocery men. A grocery man may be just as good a man as the preacher himself—and just as respectable. We can't get along in this world without groceries, and we just have to have men who will sell them to us. Then what was the matter with John? Well, just this: His business had swallowed him up! He had given it his whole time for years, and he did nothing else. It was groceries, groceries, groceries, and nothing but groceries. It was groceries on Monday, groceries on Tuesday, groceries on Wednesday, groceries on Thursday, groceries on Friday and groceries till eleven o'clock Saturday night, and if John went to church Sunday morning, sat on the front seat, and looked straight at the preacher all the time (so the preacher would say to himself, 'John seems to be very much interested in the sermon this morning, bless the Lord'). Ten to one John wasn't thinking of the preacher or his sermon at all—just only of groceries—or some big bill he had to buy or pay on the morrow.
"Now, if the epitaph had said, 'Here lies the body of John Blank; he was born a man and died a banker,' it would have been just as bad. Or, if he had died an undertaker, and buried himself, it would not have been any better.
"Now, John, Harry, Willie, if you want to be a grocer when you grow up, be a grocer and a big one—a wholesale grocer if you wish, and be a good one—the very best in town, if you can, but say—don't let your grocery business swallow you up till you are not good for anything else but to buy and sell groceries! Be a good grocer, but be a better, bigger MAN!!
"Perhaps you would like to be a lawyer; very well, be a lawyer, but see to it that you don't die a lawyer, and nothing but a lawyer. Don't let your profession swallow you up, and be bigger than you are yourself! Yes, be a lawyer, be a judge, if you will; the world doesn't seem to be able to get along without them—some of them to get people into trouble and others to get them out of it!
"Yes, but no matter how big and how good and just a judge you are, be a bigger, better, juster MAN.
"Here is another example. We have had Mr. Slim Jim; now let us have Mr. Broadman—broad-shouldered—broad-backed—broad-minded—big-hearted, open-pursed MAN—born a man and died a MAN. [Write last seven words on the blackboard.] Remember this: It is every man's duty to provide for his family, but it is no man's duty to provide a million for them and provide nothing for those who are aged and sick and lame and blind and poverty stricken, and helpless.
"That kind of charity which 'begins at home' and stays there is a shame and disgrace to its possessor. It is the kind Mr. Narrow Minded Slim Jim dispenses!
"Every man owes some of his time, his talent and his money to the town, the state, the nation to which he belongs! He gets their help and protection when needed. Protection and aid perchance in time of fire, flood or cyclone, and police protection as well. And now let me close where I begin with the gravestone and the epitaph." [Here draw picture of grave and gravestone with the epitaph, "Here Lies John Blank, He Was Born a Man But Died a Grocer."] "Let us read together once more this strange and curious epitaph, and make up our minds that no one will ever have a chance to write such a sentiment on our gravestones."
Read it in concert.
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