Character Building - Pluck
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
AS self-confidence is the basis of courage, so pluck may be thought its pinnacle, for in one view it is the finest expression of self-confidence and courage combined. It is the perseverance in courage-the silent, unnoticed "grit" which is most worth while, and which should be taught to every child. Only now and then is a person called upon to show bravery-to do something heroic; every day in the life of an ordinary citizen, young or old, calls for pluck. Obstacles, ill-health, opposition of friends, resistance of competitors, failures, doubts, incessantly beset the path of all who try to progress, whatever line they follow. Sometimes they seem overwhelming, and often are so to the weak, but the plucky man fights on until he wins. "Fortune," said Sophocles; "is not on the side of the faint-hearted."
The plucky man thinks not of the number of the enemy, but of the value of what he seeks to gain or to defend. History furnishes many an example of this, not only in war, but in every sort of enterprise, and each is worthy of a lad's earnest thought. The best man in a baseball game is the one who plays hardest in a losing game. Is the score against his side? All the more reason for a cool head and untiring effort. A wrestler who, almost prostrate underneath a heavier antagonist, will not allow himself to even think of defeat, but stiffens his aching shoulders more and more as the pressure increases, has a good chance to tire his man out, and roll on top. Cæsar and Wellington and Grant won campaigns by fighting on when doubters said all was lost. The child who wrestles in that way with a bad habit or a besetting sin will overcome it. Many a man's life, many a great cause, has been saved by the indomitable pluck which clung to the last shred of chance. Mere physical courage, and even some moral courage, is often an accident of great natural vigor of body or will; but enduring fortitude against inner weakness or outer adversity may be taught, and it should be the duty of parents and teachers to plant it deeply in the minds of all the youth under their charge.
Readers are advised to consult the references under "Courage" and "Heroism." Then, in addition, stress is laid upon " Jack and the Beanstalk," "Seven at one Blow" and "The Story of King Frost" in Volume I; "Thor's Adventures Among the Jotuns," "The Argonauts," and "Odysseus" in Volume II; "Sindbad the Sailor" and the Iliad stories in Volume III; and "The Boatman's Story" and "Wee Willie Winkie" in Volume IV. Two good articles in Volume VI are "Historical Sketch of Arctic Exploration" and "Perils of Alpine Climbing." In Volume IX turn to "Men of Pluck"; and in Volume XI memorize " Casabianca" and "A Psalm of Life."