Bend The Head Or Strike The Beam
( Originally Published 1902 )
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, in a letter to Dr. Mathes, of Boston, says : "The last time I saw your father was in the beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library; and on my taking leave, showed me a shorter way out of the house, through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew ; he accompanying me behind, and I turning partly toward him, when he said hastily, `Stoop ! Stoop!' I did not understand him, till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man who never missed any occasion of giving instruction ; and upon this, he said to me, ` You are young, and have the world before you, stoop as you go through, and you'll miss many hard thumps.' This advice thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it when I see pride mortified, and misfortune brought upon people, by carrying their heads too high."
Over the paths of social life and avenues of the business world, there are beams, scattered here and there all along the way, approaching which, people who hold their heads very high, must either stoop or get a thump. And the streets are full of hats knocked off by these obstructions, and of people whose heads are covered with bruises because they did not take the precaution to bend them. The wicked world will often take a hearty laugh at the ridiculous manner in which these haughty-headed people run against the beams.
Little children play a game in which, when an obstruction is approached, there is a cry of " low bridge," and the little ones tuck their heads and go under in safety. It would be well if such a lesson of wisdom were to be remembered by them through life, especially by those who are to come up into lives of position and wealth. It would be fortunate, if a mashed hat or a bruised head were the only penalty of striking the obstruction over the path. Many are killed by carrying their heads too high. Most of the States compel railroad companies to stretch a line, with strings hanging from it, near both ends of a bridge, that the brakemen on the train may have warning and stoop their heads, and pass under the bridge in safety ; and yet in spite of such warning, every now and then a railroad man is hit and killed by a low bridge. Not-withstanding the faithful warnings that are given, haughty-headed men and women are losing their fortunes, and lives, and souls by striking against the beam across the way.