Improvement

by Edgar Guest

The joy of life is living it
or so it seems to me;
in finding shackles on your wrists,
then struggling till you’re free;

in seeing wrongs and righting them,
in dreaming splendid dreams,
then toiling till the vision is
as real as moving streams.

The happiest mortal on the earth
is he who ends his day
by leaving better than he found
to bloom along the way.

Were all things perfect here there would
be naught for man to do;
if what is old were good enough
we’d never need the new.

The only happy time of rest
is that which follows strife
and sees some contribution made
unto the joy of life.

And he who has oppression felt,
and conquered it, is he
who really knows the happiness
and peace of being free.

The miseries of earth are here
and with them all must cope.
Who seeks for joy, through hedges thick
of care and pain must grope.

Through disappointment man must go
to value pleasure’s thrill;
To really know the joy of health
a man must first be ill.

The wrongs are here for man to right
and happiness is had
by striving to supplant with good
the evil and the bad.

The joy of life is living it
and doing things of worth,
in making bright and fruitful
all the barren spots of earth,

in facing odds and mastering them
and rising from defeat,
and making true what once was false
and what was bitter, sweet.

For only he knows perfect joy
whose little bit of soil
is richer ground than what it was
when he began to toil.

From his book, JUST FOLKS
published 1917 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

Fox and Hound: A Fable

The Quick Red Fox and the Howling Hound

dog-219868_640Once upon a time a man who lived all alone in a small farming village was given a pup. He was a gangly creature with funny floppy ears — no beauty prizes would he ever win — but the little hound was very loving and his owner grew very fond of him. Every day the man would take his dog out to the field with him as he hoed his corn; at night he’d put the hound in a pen in his back yard and go to bed.
fox winking

Down the street a ways lived an elderly widow with a big rambling back yard. One night a prowling fox found the place to his liking and took up residence under an old shed in this yard.

Thus began an interesting routine: at night the fox, off on his hunting expedition, would hurry past the dog’s pen. The hound would catch sight of it and would bark and howl. Then he’d settle down and sleep for some hours.

At the first light of dawn the fox would slip back to its den. The dog, catching a whiff of it, would start baying again.dog & cat

The owner didn’t know what was setting the dog off, but he concluded it must be some wild animal passing. Anyway, dogs do bark now and then. He gave the matter little thought until one morning his neighbor came banging on his door.

When he opened the door his neighbor shook a fist in his face. “You have to get rid of that howling hound! He’s keeping me awake all night long.”

The owner was amazed. “How can that be! My dog only barks a few times at night and a few times in the morning. It’s not like he’s barking all night long.”

“That may be,” said the scowling neighbor. “But I lie awake all night because I never know when he’s going to bark.”

So is he who anxiously anticipates troubles that is he certain will come sooner or later.

Epilogue: The dog was spared because the neighbor,floppy-ear dog after getting all hot and bothered about the issue and losing many nights of sleep, finally made his request to the one who could actually do something about the matter.

(Note: This is my adaptation of an old fable.)

 

Auntie Ding-Dong

There once was a woman named Mrs. Dingle. The children who lived on her block liked to call her “Auntie Ding-Dong” because she often rang their doorbells. Mrs. Dingle, you could say, had “an enlarged heart.” That is, a heart full of sympathy for busy mothers and families under stress.

She would bake loaves of delicious bread, put them in baskets and take them around to neighbours who were going through a tough time. If she heard a mother was sick or just had a baby, Auntie Ding-Dong helped the family in her little way, carrying in a casserole or pot of soup, feeding the children, doing the washing up.

One neighbour boy tells how he loved to meet Mrs. Dingle as she walked down the streets carrying her basket of bread. She always had a smile and a cheerful hello for everyone. One day when his own mother was in bed with the ‘flu Auntie Ding-Dong rang their doorbell, handing them a large, still-warm loaf. The aroma made his mouth water.

Auntie Ding-Dong had been widowed when she was still quite young, so never had children of her own. But rather than spend her days hoping for the sympathy of others, she found fulfillment in helping other mothers when they were overwhelmed by the needs of their families. Someone once asked her whether she ever felt sorry for herself, to which she replied, “Why, I haven’t got the time!”

Note:
I once read this story in The Friendship Book of Francis Gay and thought it was worth retelling.

Lemon Pie


The world is full of gladness;
there are joys of many kinds;
there’s a cure for every sadness
that each troubled mortal finds.
And my little cares grow lighter
and I cease to fret and sigh,
and my eyes with joy grow brighter
when she makes a lemon pie.

When the bronze is on the filling
that’s one mass of shining gold,
and its molten joy is spilling
on the plate, my heart grows bold.
And the kids and I in chorus
raise one glad exultant cry
and we cheer the treat before us
which is mother’s lemon pie.

Then the little troubles vanish
and the sorrows disappear;
then we find the grit to banish
all the cares that hovered near.
And we smack our lips in pleasure
oe’r a joy no coin can buy
and we down the golden treasure
which is known as lemon pie.
From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Bad Luck — A Legend

Once upon a time in far off China, there lived a farmer who had only one son — one precious heir to whom he would leave his small property. The farmer also had one horse. One day this horse managed to get out of his corral and ran off.

“Such bad luck!” the neighbors said to the man.

“Don’t speak too soon,” said the farmer. “How can you know if this is really bad luck?”

The neighbors were really surprised the next evening when the horse showed up with a dozen other wild horses following him. He led them into the corral and the farmer’s son quickly ran and shut the gate.

When they saw that he now had thirteen horses the neighbors congratulated the farmer. “This is such good luck for you!”

“Don’t speak too soon,” said the wise farmer. “How do you know this is going to be a good thing for us?”

Some days later the son attempted to ride one of the new horses, but the wild stallion would have none of it. He bucked frantically and the young man fell off, breaking his leg.

Neighbors shook their heads when they saw the injured son. “You were right, old man. This has been very bad luck.”

“Don’t speak too soon,” the old man calmly repeated. “How can you be sure of that?”

A few days later a local warlord came through the village and ordered all the able-bodied young men to come with him to help fight in his war. But when he saw the farmer’s son hobbling along, he shook his head. “This boys is of no use to me.”

So the farmer’s son was left behind because of his broken leg. The other young men who were forced to accompany the warlord in his conflict were never seen again. The farmer and his son rejoiced over the “bad luck” that turned out to be their biggest blessing.