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If I Only Had a Chance

Many a boy dreams of the great things he would do if he only “had a chance.” A dozen homely duties are crowding about him, but he wants a chance to show that he is of different stuff from ordinary boys; and so he dreams and chafes at his commonplace surroundings until his opportunities are gone, and then he takes up the wail of, “If I only had a chance.”

The boys who succeed in life are the boys who make their own chances, or who see in every little thing about them a chance for faithful, conscientious work. Are you poor? Poverty is a stern teacher, through her school. Have you no influential friend to help you along? Turner, the painter, was a barber’s son; Prideaux, the scholar and theologian, scoured pots and pans while working his way through college. Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest astronomer of his time, once peddled cabbages in the streets. Martin Luther, when a boy at school, sang in the streets for a mere pittance which passersby might give him. The late Judge Bradley, of the United States Supreme Court, was the son of a charcoal-burner workman.

There is more in the boy than the chance. A thousand chances may pass unheeded by a careless, unobservant lad, whereas the boy with the right sort of stuff in him would seize the first one. Patience, faithfulness, truthfulness and downright honesty count far more than chances. Many lads are given plenty of broad fields over which to roam. Yet because of their carelessness, their failing to watch, and their stubbornness, they have been easily reduced to a very few in number. Among men, these three faults have ruined many an otherwise promising life.

“The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.”* (Proverbs 12:24)

Selected from Moral Lessons (see “Dear Reader” note).