From the Rockingham Post-Dispatch, Oct. 19, 1922
By Claude Gore
Rockingham is a beautiful town, its people are above average in intelligence and possess more of this world’s goods than most people; but we are on an insane hunt for pleasures and on the wrong trail even for that. In this mad rush for pleasure we have discarded our one-time good community spirit, we have thrown it aside as if to lighten our load in the race to get that which will give us more to eat, more to wear, more to see, and more than the Jones’s haven’t got. It is no longer a race to keep up with the Jones’s but a race to out-do the Jones’s. When a project come up that is designed to better our community the best of us prey upon it with the idea of getting all the personal benefit we can and, many times, it is at the expense of our neighbors. The common good seems to have been forgotten. It is a rush for personal gain, generally a money gain with a belief that money can buy happiness. It cannot be exchanged for that commodity. Money buys things that stimulate our desire for happiness and when the effect of that stimulant dies down we are worse off than we were before. Happiness comes from a deed well done; a piece of work well done; a kindly deed; even a kindly deed done with money leave a bitter tinge and happiness would be nearer complete if the money could have been left out.
Several years ago, I was on the train, bound for Wilmington and the train stopped at Lumberton. There was a very old woman in the seat opposite me and she asked if this was Lumberton. I told her yes and she said, ‘I was to get off at Lumberton,’ and I asked her why she did not get off. She said she could not walk; so I picked her up in my arms and took her off the train. The conductor said, ‘Why I forgot that old lady.’ There was no one to meet her, so while the conductor held the train, I carried that old lady still in my arms several hundred feet to the waiting room and did not put her down until the agent promised me that he would take care of her. It was after midnight. When the conductor signed that train ahead and I swung into my seat I felt much better. Did I make that old lady happy? No. I relieved her distress and made myself happy.
In addition to acts of kindness there is only one thing in the world that can make a man happy. That is love of his work. I pity the man who does not love his work. The grandest feeling in the world is to go home at night thinking on the way that you have done a good day’s work; done it well; a little better than you ever did before and better than anyone else could have done it—and then on top of that to get a good night’s rest and wake up in the morning with an eagerness to get on the job again and see if you can do even a little better today than you did the day before. Oh, how I pity the man who considers his work a drudge and considers payday and Saturday afternoon the only day worth while.
Our people do not appreciate large employers of labor as they should. These men are real benefactors. A red-blooded, true man, does not want anything given to him. He wants a chance to work and fair pay for what he does. Large employers of labor distribute more happiness than we realize. Ask any man who was recently on strike and he will tell you how difficult it is to loaf and be happy.
We should rebuild our community spirit. There are many ways in which we can help. Our town council is doing lots of construction work and we are indulging in lots of destructive criticism. Some of them are beginning to feel like they have a thankless job. Let us back them up with constructive criticism.
Our policemen receive almost no co-operation. Let us help them by obeying the speed laws, the parking laws and other laws that we are continually breaking.
Let us discard that selfish personal gain policy and deliver our influence to the policy that will bring the most good to the community. We must improve our schools more; we must improve our church property. Let us cultivate that neighborly feeling, which makes one feel so much better and the world look so much brighter. Let us abandon that policy of banishing the lawless and try to live so that they can not be lawless. Let us uphold the arm of our solicitor and not convict him before he has been heard. May we all realize what a mistake it is to think at the rate of 248.5 miles an hour ourselves better than the other fellow.
May we keep our school athletics pure and not let our desire to win smother our desire to be honest. May we enjoy the game but not let our excitement interfere with giving our opponent a square deal and the game if we can not win it fairly and as gentlemen should.
Screw up our courage and determine that we will fight vice and the customs that have not yet become vices but have a tendency that way. Fight them forever and a day or until they are completely banished from our community. Pray that the thoughtless age will be made shorter. Try to demolish that idea that the boy is all right; he can get along but the girl must be protected. There is no protection for the girl unless the boys are made clean. Shame on a town that will accept a man who has run away with another man’s wife and will not accept the wife. Where is our community spirit when we will not act for the common good?
And now with Francis Kimball, let us all say ‘a sacred burden in this life ye bear. Look on it, lift it, bear it solemnly. Stand up and walk beneath it steadfastly; fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin; but onward, upward till the goal ye win.’
Let us remember that happiness is the reward of right living, right thinking, right acting and that these then can not be right without work and our community will benefit whether we will or no.