Timeliness in Doing Good
To spend well this one brief life of ours, we must be active in doing good. This we have already learned. But not only should we be active in doing good, but we should do the good act when the act will be most helpful. Do the good deed when the good deed needs to be done. The kind word may be worth much and be greatly helpful to the fainting soul today, but may be too late tomorrow. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” (Galatians 6:10) Will you stop a moment and think over these words? Let no opportunity of doing good go by you unimproved. To neglect the present opportunity of doing good and then never be able to do it is a sad thing.
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’ ”1
[John G. Whittier; “Maud Muller”]
Why do you keep all the kind thoughts and kind words for a man until he is dead? They do him no good then. It is while he is living that he needs them. He has burdens heavy to be borne; troubles gather thick over his head; he is neglected and even misrepresented. You can help him with a smile or a few kind words; but, no, you pass him by. Now he is brought to the grave. As the cold clods fall upon his plain coffin, you say, “Well, he was a good man, after all.” Why did you not tell him that when he was living? It would have buoyed up his spirit then; it would have made him feel that life was not all in vain and that yet he might do a little good. But now he hears not your words. They return to you or float out into empty space a mere sound. The ear that was once eager for them and the heart that was aching for them is now cold in death. Your kind, cheering words are too late to give him encouragement; your flowers are too late to be appreciated. Once they would have brightened his life, but now his life is over. Once you could have chased away some clouds that were darkening his life, but you did not, and that day has gone into eternity as a day of darkness. You might have brightened it. This morning some kind hand placed a vase of beautiful flowers upon my desk. As I write, their fragrance reaches me and brings me tidings of someone’s kind remembrance.
It costs but little to speak kind words, but, oh! ofttimes they are worth so much! I know of nothing that costs so little to give that is so valuable to receive. But why keep all the flowers, the kind words, the tender feelings and thoughts, and the sympathetic tears until the one to whom they should be given passes away, and then come and let them fall so gently upon the casket? Do you know of one who is weary? Do you know of one who is being misrepresented? Do you know of one who is being trodden by others, with scarcely anyone to speak a word of comfort? Now, what would Jesus do? Look at poor Lazarus—turned away by the rich, neglected and rejected: watched over by angels ready to gather him to paradise when he passes beyond the need of aid from men. Why not be an angel and make a day of paradise for him here? Let us do some angel-work while here in life. The angels are ministering spirits. They whisper, “Be of good cheer,” “Peace on earth.” They come to gladden hearts; they come to close the lions’ mouths; they come to open the prison doors and break the iron bands. Oh, let us do some angel work!
Hast thou any flowers for me?
Wilt thou kindly let them be
Given ere death bedews my brow?
Wait not, give them to me now.
While in life’s eventful day
Tired, and weary grows the way,
When in dark and lonely hour,
Give me then the cheering flow’r.
Hast thou kind words to impart,
Words that lift the fainting heart?
Speak ere Death’s hand on me lay;
Speak those kind words now—today.
Kind words are but empty breath
To the heart that’s still in death;
When life’s load is hard to bear
Let me then the kind words hear.
Hast thou sunlit smiles to give,
Smiles that make us want to live?
Ere I cross death’s sullen stream,
On me let those bright smiles beam.
Smiles, whate’er their power to save,
Cannot penetrate the grave.
Ere I reach life’s ending mile,
Give to me the sunlit smile.
Prayer can stay the trembling knee:
If thou hast but one for me,
Let it offered be today,
Ere the life-light fades away.
When my soul transcends the air,
I no more shall need thy prayer:
Let now, today, thy soul travail;
’Tis only now thy prayers avail.
“If I should die tonight,
My friends would call to mind with loving thought
Some kindly deed the icy hand had wrought,
Some gentle word the frozen lips had said,
Errands on which the willing feet had sped;
The memory of my selfishness and pride,
My hasty words, would all be put aside,
And so I should be loved and mourned tonight.”2
[Arabella E. Smith; “If I Should Die Tonight”]