Every life coheres around certain fundamental core ideas, whether we realize it or not. If I were asked to state the ideas around which my life and my life’s work have been built, it would seem that they were very simple ideas. An old professor of mine used to say that effort counts. “The surest thing in the world,” he would say, “next to death, is that effort counts.” This I believe with all my heart.
We seldom realize the sense of glow, the sense of growing self-esteem, the sense of achievement, which can come from doing a job well. Just working at a thing with enthusiasm, and with a belief that the job may be accomplished however uncertain the outcome, lends zest to life.
If I were to start life again, I think I would do just what I have done in the past — this past having been done by mere chance. I would start in a place which was run down and I would believe with all my heart that if the thing needed to be done and if effort were put into it, that results would come for human good.
Too, from the outset, my wife and I had the feeling that no matter what else we did in life, we had to devote our best thinking and our best living to our children. Now that they’re all grown, we have sincere satisfaction in the fact that trying to do a job and trying to earn a living did not take away from us this urgency to be and to do so that our children could have a feeling of the importance of integrity, honesty and straight-forwardness in life. We people in public life do the jobs we have to do and fail to save our own children.
This second thing is important: Doing the task you have to do, but beginning at home, to bring peace and love and happiness and contentment to those whom God has given you.
The third idea around which I have tried to live and work is that there is an over-shadowing providence that cares for one. Oft times our struggles are too intense. Never in my life have I gotten away from the idea that God cares, and that the forces of good in the world are greater than the forces of evil, and that if we will lend ourselves to those forces, in the long run we have greater joy and happiness in the things in which we try to achieve. This I learned from my mother as a boy. Although she was ill, and although we were poor, as poor as people can be, I do not now recall a moment of discouragement in her presence. There was always an over-powering belief that God was in his Heaven, and that, as Joe Louis said, “God is on our side.” These things, I believe with all my heart.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.