Help Yourselves by William M. Thayer

MANY boys and girls make a failure in life because they do not learn to help themselves. They depend on father and mother even to hang up their hats and to find their playthings. When they become men and women, they will depend on husbands and wives to do the same thing. “A nail to hang a hat on,” said an old man of eighty years, “is worth everything to a boy.” He had been “through the mill,” as people say, so that he knew. His mother had a nail for him when he was a boy—“a nail to hang his hat on,” and nothing else. It was “Henry’s nail” from January to January, year in and out, and no other member of the family was allowed to appropriate it for any purpose whatever. If the broom by chance was hung thereon, or an apron or coat, it was soon removed, because that nail was “to hang Henry’s hat on.” And that nail did much for Henry; it helped make him what he was in manhood—a careful, systematic, orderly man, at home and abroad, on his farm and in his house. He never wanted another to do what he could do for himself.

Young folks are apt to think that certain things, good in themselves, are not honorable. To be a blacksmith or a bootmaker, to work on a farm or drive a team, is beneath their dignity, as compared with being a merchant, or practising medicine or law. This is PRIDE, an enemy to success and happiness. No necessary labor is discreditable. It is never dishonorable to be useful. It is beneath no one’s dignity to earn bread by the sweat of the brow. When boys who have such false notions of dignity become men, they are ashamed to help themselves as they ought, and for want of this quality they live and die unhonored. Trying to save their dignity, they lose it.

Here is a fact we have from a very successful merchant. When he began business for himself, he carried his wares from shop to shop. At length his business increased to such an extent, that he hired a room at the Marlboro’ Hotel, in Boston, during the business season, and thither the merchants, having been duly notified, would repair to make purchases. Among all his customers, there was only one man who would carry to his store the goods which he had purchased. The buyers asked to have their goods carried, and often this manufacturer would carry them himself. But there was one merchant, and the largest buyer of the whole number, who was not ashamed to be seen carrying a case of goods through the streets. Sometimes he would purchase four cases, and he would say, “Now, I will take two, and you take two, and we will carry them right over to the store.” So the manufacturer and the merchant often went through the streets of Boston quite heavily loaded. This merchant, of all the number who went to the Marlboro’ Hotel for their purchases, succeeded in business. He became a wealthy man when all the others failed. The manufacturer, who was not ashamed to help himself, is now living—one of the wealthy men of Massachusetts, ready to aid, by his generous gifts, every good object that comes along, and honored by all who know him.

You have often heard and read the maxim, “God helps those who help themselves.” Is it not true?