( Originally Published 1916 )
THE world is full of unnoted heroism.
That is the best kind. Spectacular heroism is always a little tainted.
The man who stops a runaway horse in the city street, or the man who dives and rescues a drowning woman, or the soldier who dashes forward in the face of death, does well; but there is a. better type.
Many can act nobly under the spur of sudden impulse and with an inspiring audience; but to live upon the high plane of self-sacrifice daily takes finer fibre.
There is the workman who brings home his entire week's pay every Saturday night, that it may be used for the care of wife and children, and that the balance be put in the savings bank. Some look on him as tame and dull, a routiner with no spirit; but he would like to go to the ball game as well as any man, to take his beer in the saloon and crack jokes with the boys, and to buy for himself the expensive luxuries men enjoy. He daily subdues himself in little things; heroism with him is a rule and not an exception; it is of the kind the world passes by, often misjudges and despises.
And how many women, unknown and unpraised, are living days of constant devotion to high purpose! They are hidden in homes, they are persecuted by petty economies, they have given up tastes soul-deep and renounced ambitions dear as life, just to be faithful and loyal in the small corner where destiny has placed them.
What a wonderful, divine thing is a human being! Capable of how serene heights of greatness!
Whoever would see this, however, must him-self be great, for to small souls all men are worms and spiders.
And against what odds the common man maintains his character! Sensational newspapers pour into his consciousness their daily gathering of perversion, violence, and greed; novels exploit their stories of the idle and privileged class, and the morbidities of passion; almost every cult and ism exclaims against the innate evil of men and women; yet he clings to his reverences, does his work and keeps clean.
The most admirable nobility is that of the common run of people. The mass of men is better than any class of men.
You can bribe, debauch, and ruin this or that group; you cannot corrupt a whole people.
It is mankind that is steadily, persistently good. It is humanity that rejects all poisons. It is the human race that best reflects the faces of the gods.
If any one would drink of the unfailing spring of optimism, feed on the treasures of hope, learn the secret of wholesome faith, and find that sweet, strong quality in spirit that corresponds to the sanity and peace found in nature, let him study to know and to love the common people, for theirs are the infinite resources, the rich supplies, of unnoted heroism.