Cry For Help
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
It is said that one species of the lobster is sometimes left upon the rocks by the receding tide. When so left the poor animal has not sufficient instinct and energy to work its way into the water, but waits for the returning tide to float it from its temporary prison. There on the rocks it would remain and die, although a slight effort would enable it to reach the waves, tossing but a few feet below. The world is full of people who, like the lobster, are waiting for the tide of prosperity to float them out of the niche where they have stranded. These human lobsters have not the ability nor the inclination to bear their own burdens. They seek help from others and hope to rise through some fortuitous combination of circumstances that shall carry them with a bound to fame and fortune. There are thousands of such people, mere hangers-on of society,. who are cheating themselves with this foolish idea, that they are to be helped to a livelihood without putting forth manly effort for themselves. What man is there, prominent in the affairs of a community, who is not besieged with applications to help poor creatures to work they cannot do and to positions they cannot fill. Such men seem to feel that if they could only "get a lift" of a thousand or so to make a start, they would soon be the possessors of millions won by their own splendid genius and industry. They do not realize that they lack the true ring of greatness or they would not be in the condition of helplessness that they now are. They fail to see that the man who cannot improve upon little could not advance upon much. They mistake their extravagant wishings for talent and delude themselves into the idea that the world is frowning upon merit and doing injustice to latent genius. Such people need to wake up to the idea that the world does not owe them a living, does not owe them anything but a halter for their impudence. They need to learn that personal worth and personal effort are the forces that count in the world's work, and that outside help can do little for a man who does not help himself.
In the same spirit men look to the government, to education, to organized beneficial societies to help them take life easy. They long to be high up among the great of earth, but look to artificial help as a means of elevation. But none of these things give a permanent help to a man. They may greatly assist a man of power and vim, but are utterly worthless in the case of these "limp people " who will put forth no active effort in their own behalf. The truth is, these people are too indolent to make their way in the world, and wish to shine with borrowed light. They expect to pose before the public in a false attitude and win their living by their wits instead of their industry. They send up a senseless cry for help, when there is no help but self-help, no salvation but self-salvation. Such people need the sting of want to teach them the first salutary lesson of life. When they can be brought down to the iron doors of hunger, they can be taught that the way to success is in the way of conquered peril, in the way of over-mastered difficulty, in the way of sharp encounter; hardship and unyielding toil. " One of the most disgusting sights in the world," says Holland, " is that of a young man with healthy blood, broad shoulders, presentable calves, and a hundred and fifty pounds, more or less, of good bone and muscle, standing with his hands in his pockets, longing for help." It is help from within that such men need. That strengthens the entire man, while help from without enfeebles the poor powers that he already possesses. Whatever is done for men takes away, to some extent, the stimulus of self-help, and where men are guided and helped from without the inevitable tendency is to render them helpless. Self is the only certain reliance. Money, friends, family. chance, these come and go on the uncertain tide of time. They can give no lasting assistance. The man must depend upon himself or go to the wall.
It is for this necessity of self-help that every young person ought to be taught two lessons early in life. These are, first, the habit of industry, and secondly, some useful occupation that shall enable him to earn an honest living without asking odds of any man. One reason why the avenues of life are crowded with these loungers is because so many of our young people go into life with no taste for industry, and no occupation to which they can turn their hand. Add to this the notion that so many have, that the family wealth is sufficient to maintain them without very active effort, ana you have the prevailing causes of this cringing helplessness of which I am speaking. As a result of these causes, our young people no longer face life with that resolute and definite purpose that is so essential to success. Young men do not take that keen measurement of their life-work that they did a generation ago. They do not go to college so often as they are sent. They do not push their way into callings with that persistence that was manifested by our fathers. They allow themselves to be led by this or that trivial circumstance, and do not hear the voice of duty summoning them to the field of action. They are waiting, like the crab on the rocks, for the current to bear them to the goal of their ambition. When at last they awake to the stern realities of their position in society, they are helpless of course, with the problem of life before them. The help they crave is not a help, but a hinderance to progress. It is not facilities but difficulties that they need. They do not need fostering so much as they need flogging—not help, but the lash of misfortune.