There’s a classic old story about a conversation between a farmer and a preacher. The story goes that the preacher was driving down a country road when he came upon the most beautiful farm he’d ever seen in his lifetime spent traveling rural roads. He could only compare it to a beautiful painting. It was by no means a new farm, but the house and buildings were well constructed and in perfect repair and paint. A garden around the house was filled with flowers and shrubs. A fine row of trees lined each side of the white gravel drive. The fields were beautifully tilled, and a fine herd of fat dairy cattle grazed knee-deep in the pasture. The site was so arresting the preacher stopped to drink it all in. He had been raised on a farm himself, and he knew a great one when he saw it.
It was then he noticed the farmer, on a tractor, hard at work, approaching the place where the preacher stood beside his car. When the farmer got closer, the preacher hailed him. The farmer stopped the tractor, idled down the engine, and then shouted a friendly “hello!” The preacher said to him, “My good man, God has certainly blessed you with a magnificent farm.” And then, there was a pause as the farmer took off his cape and shifted in the tractor seat to take a look at his pride and joy. He then looked at the preacher and he said, “Yes, He has, and we’re grateful. But you should have seen this place when He had it all to Himself.”
Well, the preacher looked at the strong, friendly features of the farmer for a moment, smiled, and with a wave of his hand climbed back in his car and continued on his way. And he thought, that man has given me my sermon for next Sunday.
Every farmer along this road and in this country has been blessed with the same land, pretty much, and the same opportunity. Each has worked his farm according to his nature. Every farm, every home of every family in the country is the living reflection of the people who dwell in it. He understood that the land we’re given was not the acres we buy for our farm or the lot on which we build or buy a home, but rather the life we give it, what we do with what we have. Our lives are our plots of ground, and that’s the land we sow and from which we are then obliged to reap the resulting harvest. And the way we’ve sown will be reflected in every department of our lives.
Well, the farmer that the preacher had just talked to would reap an abundant harvest, not just when the time came for gathering his crops, but every time he looked around the place, every time he returned from town to that white gravel drive and trees that lined it and the fine home and gardens that stood at the end of it. He was grateful for what he had. But he knew that it was not what is given us that makes the difference, but rather what we do with it, what we make of what we have. Yes, sir, the preacher thought as he smiled and drove his car along the road to town. He had his sermon for next Sunday, and it would be a good one.
Each one of us is a farmer. Our lives are the plots of ground that have been given to us free and clear. If we’re wise, we too, will reap the abundant harvest, for the planting is left strictly to us.
Three Valuable Words
I was once interviewed by a man and his wife who were writing a book about well-known people who’ve overcome problems of various kinds in order to further their lives. I mentioned to him that everyone must overcome problems of various degrees and that people who are more or less in the public’s eye aren’t any more courageous than other people we may never hear about. In fact, the story of every life is a story of obstacles overcome.
But they wanted my story, so I told them of three words that had have been of incalculable help to me in reaching various goals. Whenever I became depressed and things seemed rather hopeless, I would always say to myself, “Stay with it.” “Stay with it” kept me going many times when it seemed the better part of valor to quit and settle for smaller goals. And it’s nothing more than persistence. To me, a personal reminder is always that persistence can accomplish almost anything.
The habit of persistence soon becomes the habit of winning. Every successful person’s story is the story of persistence, of “staying with it” day after day despite the problems and setbacks and mistakes and disappointments that seem to test our resolve from time to time. The power of a person’s persistence seems to be determined by the strength of his or her goal. We read and hear about people who sail around the world in a 30-foot sailboat and overcome handicaps to win a gold medal at the Olympic games, and sooner or later, we find their stories about persistence, of simply staying with it one day at a time.
I remember well the day that I sat down to write the first of my radio programs. That was more than 20 years ago. That was 5,200 programs ago, with about 700 words to the program; that’s 3,640,000 words ago. Or the equivalent of 36 full-size books ago. Now that’s certainly no world’s record, but a good example of what persistence can do all the same. I can recall that my friend Lowell Thomas’s study was completely lined with the bound copies of his broadcasts.
When we see the tired faces of commuters on the big city subway and children climbing aboard the school bus, we see persistence at work. We see it in the expression of the wife and mother doing her grocery shopping or the week’s laundry or preparing another meal. But everything we do contributes to the life we lead, the joys we experience, the satisfactions we realize from time to time, and persistence itself is a joy when we’re doing what we enjoy and want to do. But there are times when we need to remind ourselves: “Stay with it”. This is what I’ve chosen of my own free will to do, and so I’ll do it to the very best of my ability come what may.
So in the interview, it all seemed to come down to making up one’s mind about what one wants to do and then starting toward it and doing it every day, day after day, month after month, until one day you’ve got what you’ve set out to get, for good or bad, and it’s time to decide on another goal and head out on the new course. It all seems to be a matter of just staying with it. It’s not a very complicated success formula, is it? Just make up your mind what it is you want very much to have or to do, and get started. And when the going gets very tough, and it’s a bad, bad day, and you feel like giving up, you say to yourself, “Stay with it.”
Stay with it.