Work Your Own Garden

Commencement Day Address by P. H. Welshimer

Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of
herbs.— 1 Kings 21 : 2.

A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things
which he possesseth. — Luke 12: 15.

Godliness, with contentment, is great gain. — 1 Tim, 6: 6.


THIS is a fine time to take a serious look at life.
Men have long been discussing the questions,
”Whence came I?” ”What am I?” and ”Whither
am I going?” We shall now consider another ques-
tion, which deals with making life count.

We meet two classes of people: One class lives to
make a living; the other, to make a life. Our happi-
ness and success will depend largely upon the goal we
place before us. The roads we travel contain both
warnings of danger and evidences of safety ahead.
Signs along the way proclaim the failures of some
men who have preceded us and hold forth cheering
notices of the success of others. If we have eyes with
which to see and ears with which to hear, we can find
abundant help in carrying forward our purpose to
make life count.

The sketch of Ahab’s life presented in First Kings
is worthy of study, not because of any success attend-
ing him, but rather because he was a monumental
fool — a man who did not know when he was well off.
Here was a man whose life was wrapped up in things,

not thoughts. His happiness was dependent upon the
external, rather than the internal. There was not
enough in the man him-self to give him any degree of
comfort. He was a colossal example of covetousness.
The happiness of his life consisted in the abundance
of the things which he possessed. He had neither god-
liness nor contentment, and so gained nothing worth

And the man was rich. He was a king. He had
as mean a wife as ever walked beside a man, and she
was of his own choosing. Her name was Jezebel and
she ruled the household. He had a summer palace
down at Jezreel. A man named Naboth owned a vine-
yard which joined the palace grounds. As Ahab
strutted through the palace yards he decided to secure
from Naboth his beautiful vineyard, that it might be
used for his own vegetable garden. He offered Naboth
another vineyard and then proposed to purchase it
with gold, but the vineyard was a precious heritage
in the eyes of its owner. It had belonged to his
fathers and was an old homestead, and he would
neither trade nor sell.

There is something sacred about an old homestead,
the place where one’s fathers lived, where he was born,
spent his childhood, was reared to manhood and where
he calmly waits the coming of age. What memories
cluster there! What magic in the words — ”the old
home.” Blessed is the man who can spend all the
years of his life at the old homestead, the man who
has never learned the art of wandering and roaming
afar. Naboth ‘s old home was sacred to him and he
would not sell.

Ahab, the rich king, was a spoiled child. Throw-
ing himself across the bed, he refused to eat because

he could not have this vegetable garden. Thus the
desire for the spot where he had taken a notion to
raise potatoes, cabbage, garlic, onions and lettuce
spoiled the program of his life. But Ahab is not the
only man on the great stage of life who has quit be-
cause he could not have the things he most desired.
There have been others also who have not learned how
to rise above difficulties, to climb over obstacles. Herein
lies the pathway to success.

But the past master in all heinous, fiendish acts
soon appeared on the scene — Jezebel, with the bloody
hand. She wrote letters, sealing them with the king’s
seal, commanding the elders of the city to proclaim
a great day and place neighbor Naboth on high, and
to secure two evil men who would bear false witness
against him. The day was set, people turned out en
masse, and Naboth was honored. But suddenly two
men arose and accused him of having blasphemed God
and having sworn against the king. He was immedi-
ately stoned to death, and Ahab took possession of the
garden. But later the dogs, that licked up the blood
of Naboth, likewise licked the blood that dripped from
the floor of the chariot in which Ahab died.

Prom an upper room in the palace, at the command
of Jehu, the eunuchs threw the screaming Jezebel to
the ground beneath, and while Jehu ate his feast with-
in those palace walls, the dogs tore the flesh from her
bones. The garden was given to Ahab, but what a
price he paid. And yet, as men to-day turn the pages
of history and see the bitter ending of these two lives,
do they profit by their example ? In fancy we see writ-
ten across the tombstones of Ahab and Jezebel the in-
scription, *’They have done whom they could; but
what’s the use?’*


What was the trouble with Ahab? Simply this —
his happiness was not complete without the acquisition
of this particular little, old vegetable garden upon
which he had set his heart. Here is a great under-
lying principle which we do well to consider.

I. There can be success and happiness in life
without great possessions.

Recently, at a banquet given in his honor in New
York City, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., said: ‘^I don’t
envy my father his mother, for I have one just as
good. I don’t envy my father his wife, although she
is a great woman; I have a wife just as good. I don’t
envy my father his children, for I have the best chil-
dren in the world; but I do envy my father the op-
portunity and the necessity he had when a boy, of
earning a fortune and making good in life.” Yet the
very thing that John D. Rockefeller, Jr., envied most
in his father is the thing which every youth has and
doesn’t know it. John Halifax, gentleman, when ques-
tioned as to his purpose in life, said: ^*I hope to be
like my father, a scholar and a gentleman; and if I
get one foot on the ladder, I will climb.” The pur-
pose of the lad was his fortune. His vision was his

In a southern Ohio town there lives a man worth
a million dollars. He is the wealthy man of the coun-
ty. People passing his home admire his spacious lawns
and his magnificent gardens. The men v/ho dig in
his mines envy him the luxury which he enjoys. “When
strangers visit that town, the home of this rich man
becomes the point of interest. One day his seventeen-
year-old lad, while skating, fell, striking the back of
his head upon the ice, producing blindness. The rich
father traveled from city to city with his blind boy,

endeavoring to find the skill which would bring the
light to those sightless orbs, but his search was in
vain. Looking upon his son one day, he said to a
friend standing near: ”If I could give sight back to
that boy, I would cheerfully surrender every dollar I
have in the world and to-morrow morning take my
place in the mines, and with these hands dig with the
men the remainder of my days. I would move from
yon mansion on the hill to a humble cottage, and go
forth in the morning with a dinner-pail on my arm,
returning at night the happiest man in all the world.”

And yet there are hundreds of men in that county,
looking forth from their humble cottages, surrounded
by their children that know the joy of health, who
have never stopped to take an inventory of their riches,
but who think the man on the hill is the rich man of
the community. They are the rich ones and do not
know it. And many of us are rich, but our riches do
not consist in gardens stolen from our neighbors.

II. Do you need another man’s garden in order
to have the opportunity for doing the worth-while
things of life?

Many a man thinks the other fellow’s windows are
golden and that the sun never casts its warm reflection
upon his own, while the fellow who lives in the house
with the golden windows watches yours and envies
you their glory. The opportunity for making good is
where you live; it is in your own town; you but need
eyes with which to see it. ”Distance lends enchant-
ment.” We are prone to think the big men all live
a thousand miles away. It is a long ways to the Klon-
dike, and the Klondike is wonderful. The place in
which we live is dull, and the people are commonplace.
Life here is humdrum. This is the way in which too

many people look upon their surroundings. ”Lift up
your eyes and look upon the fields, they are white
unto the harvest” If you will make good, begin right
here and now.

Some years ago three brothers at Strasburg, 0.,
read of great stores in Philadelphia, New York City
and Chicago, and decided they could have a great
store in their little town of one thousand population.
They laid their foundations; they advertised, and to-
day Garver Brothers’ store is known all over northern
Ohio. Their store covers a town block, and people
come for fifty miles by wagon, automobile and trolley
to patronize it. They carry a stock of goods that
would do credit to a city of a hundred thousand. It’s
a great department store, organized as systematically
as Wanamaker ‘s or Field ‘s, all due to the genius of
three boys who believed they could make good in their
own garden, and they did.

A thousand cities to-day enjoy the blessings of a
public library, through the munificence of Andrew
Carnegie. Many a man says: ”Mr. Carnegie’s gift
doesn’t represent much. Had I his wealth, I too
could build libraries.” But would you do it? Are
you as generous proportionately with what you have
as was Mr. Carnegie? You are not measured by what
you would do had you great possessions, but rather by
what you are doing with what you have. “When An-
drew Carnegie was a lad, carrying telegrams about the
city of Pittsburgh, he heard of an attorney in that
city who had a library of four hundred volumes. On
Saturday afternoons the attorney stayed at home,
where he received poor boys of the city, lending them
books and giving them good advice. One day little
Andy Carnegie, barefooted, climbed the steps that led

to the good man’s house, and, securing a book, began
laying the foundations of his education. When he be-
came a man of wealth, one of his first impulses was
to be as great a blessing to the boys of the world as
his benefactor, with four hundred volumes, had been
to him. And, consequently, his libraries throughout
the United States have been more numerous than the
altars of Abraham. If you can not build a library
for your city or community, perhaps you might at
least lend a few books and thus help some worthy fel-
low up the ladder of life.

Every man owes something to his city. Are you
helping to build yours? Are you looking toward its
to-morrow, and helping to lay foundations that will
endure? Milford, N. H., has an enterprising group
of men who believe in their home town, and who plan
and work for its upbuilding. They are not quitters,
withdrawing from hard tasks because their town is
not a metropolitan city with skyscrapers and great
boulevards, but they believe in Milford. Recently the
son of a physician in that town went to Dartmouth,
to take up forestry as his life-work. The Milford
group of enterprising men said: ”The old doctor is
growing older every day; we shall soon need his suc-
cessor.” So they wrote the son, laying the case before
him, and urging him to prepare to assist the father in
his old age, and later succeed him in caring for the
health of their beloved town. The boy is to-day in
Harvard Medical School planning to follow the sug-
gestion of his fellow-townsmen.

In the same town is a little factory, upon which a
hundred families depend for their daily bread. The
owner and manager is growing old. To-morrow some
one must take his place or the factory will be closed.

His son was in college, studying finance. The above-
mentioned forward-looking coterie of enterprising citi-
zens saw an opportunity to help their town, and be-
sought the boy to come back, become an understudy
of his father and later take charge of the factory.
The boy is now studying the factory business, and
when the hands of his father are palsied, the wheels
of the factory will continue to move and the business
will thrive.

All of this goes to demonstrate that the man with
eyes need not seek other gardens in which to succeed.
Let him dig in his own patch, and there he will find
prosperity, contentment and happiness.

Eighteen years ago there moved into Canton a
young man from a rural district, who had been a
teacher in the country schools. A young, but growing,
industry of the city gave him a position as timekeeper
over a group of foreigners. When the whistle blew at
quitting-time, every foreigner threw down his shovel
and pick, and, like a child let loose from school, hied
away to his home. The young schoolteacher dis-
covered shortly that the company was losing much
through the theft of tools. He suggested the building
of a shed and the checking of all shovels and picks, so
that every man would be held responsible for the im-
plement he used. His company gave heed to his sug-
gestion, and told him to do the checking. He came
to work each morning an hour before the foreigners
appeared and stayed when they had gone. He worked
early and late without kicking about overtime. He
was a second-mile man. He did the work because it
needed to be done and because it would help his em-
ployer’s business. He was neither a slacker nor a
knocker, but performed well the duty that lay nearest.


His ears listened for orders and not for the whistle,
and his eye sought his work instead of the clock. He
worked and thought, and, as he thought, he climbed.
To-day our timekeeper, in his early forties, is vice-
president, general manager and treasurer of this in-
dustry, which employs eight thousand men. He was
quite content to work in his own yard, but he toiled
with a high motive and reached a high goal.

III. One of the greatest needs of to-day is the
need of men who are giving themselves to the dis-
covery of men.

Every community has its discouraged fellows.
Life’s road is lined with juniper-trees and each one
has an Elijah beneath it. The fellow who most needs
your help passes your door every day. He works in
your field and your factory, attends the school in
your town, and you call him by name, for you know
him. A worth-while society wears the name, *^The
Boosters’ Club,” and it is an honor to be a member
of that organization. Few men ever discover them-
selves, they have to be discovered; and to discover
a man, a real man, means more to the world than
the discovery of the North Pole.

When Daniel Webster entered college, a big, awk-
ward country boy, and with fear and trembling and
a homesick feeling climbed the steps leading into the
college building, Rufus King met him, and, placing
his hand on his shoulder, said: ‘* Daniel, I know your
father. Study hard and you will succeed.” Years
afterward, when Webster had risen to the zenith of
his power, he said: ‘*I can still feel the pressure of
the hand of Rufus King upon my shoulder; I can
still hear the words that fell from his lips.” It was
but a slight touch and a brief sentence, but Rufus


King helped to steady and to encourage the great

David Grayson, in his wanderings through the
country studying the lives of the people, stopped one
afternoon in springtime before a dilapidated house,
on the porch of which sat a discouraged farmer.
About that dooryard there played some boys, who,
though young in years, were depressed with the gloom
that had settled down over their father’s life. With-
in the door there worked a woman, the wife and
mother, who saw nothing before her but the clouds
of despair. Every note that was sounded about that
old, barren farm was a note of pessimism. David
Grayson stood in the yard and lifted his eyes to the
hills and to the arching skies that bent over all. He
heard the songbirds’ chorus, and, drinking in the
beauty of the surrounding country, said, ‘^ Man, what
a fine place in which to live!” To which the man
replied, “Yes, a fine place in which to starve.” Then
Grayson perceived that the trouble lay not in the
place, but in the man, for here was a discouraged
farmer, who thought that wealth, ease, happiness and
contentment lay beyond the hills in the noisy city.
But two days spent with David Grayson, as he led
that farmer and his boys through the orchard and
into the fields, showing them how to break up the
soil, to sow, to plant and to reap, were all that was
necessary to throw the golden sunshine upon their
windows and help them realize that they lived in one
of the garden spots of the world. When David Gray-
son left, the farmer was in his field at work, and as
he looked back from the distant hill, the little boys,
who had walked with him a distance down the road,
were waving their hands good-by, for into their lives

and the life of their home had come a man who had
been willing to walk out of his way to show a dis-
couraged family how to make a success of life. The
world has no greater men than the men of the David
Grayson spirit. They are royal souls, who, in pass-
ing, bless us as their shadows fall upon us. And, to
a great degree, every man can be a David Grayson —
if he will.

One hundred years ago, on a barren island five
miles out in the sea from the Netherlands, there lived
a band of pirates. The Netherlands Government com-
missioned a young attorney, twenty-one years of age,
to become judge and mayor of the island, and to ex-
terminate the pirates, thus protecting the lives of men
who were cast ashore with the wreckage that came
in from the sea. He cleaned up the island, went back
over the channel and returned with his young wife,
and there began his life’s work of making the island
a beautiful place in which to live. Year after year
he planted trees. The barren island became a garden
of beauty. Others of like tastes moved thither, and
built their homes. To-day the ornithologists of the
world go to that island to study the great variety of
beautiful birds, of rare plumage and charming song.
Into the home of that enterprising young man came
seven children in thirteen years. One evening the
mother gathered the children around the fireside, and
told them the story of their father’s life, of his am-
bition, his purpose, and she said, ”Your father’s en-
deavor is to make this island one of the best and most
beautiful places in the world in which to live.”

The children, in later years, left the family fire-
side. One became a great lawyer in South Africa and
a leader in the Boer War; another became a law-

yer in the Netherlands; one became a minister; an-
other, a minister’s wife; one gave her life to the beau-
tiful, but arduous, task of caring for the blind. An-
other, with his wife and two little boys, came to Brook-
lyn, N. Y., where in early manhood he died. His wife
one day told the story of their grandfather’s purpose
and achievements to her two little boys, one of whom
was Edward Bok — for thirty years editor of the Ladies’
Home Journal and recognized as one of the most influ-
ential citizens of Philadelphia.

This lad knew the pangs of poverty, and early in
life learned the art of doing good. He sold ice-water
to the thirsty crowd on the street-cars in Brooklyn.
He washed windows and wrapped up meat in the
butcher shop for fifty cents a week. He picked up
coal from the gutters in the streets of Brooklyn and
carried it home for the mother to use in cooking their
daily meal. He has probably done as much as any
other man or group of men in beautifying America,
through the editorial pages of his magazine. Two
millions of homes have profited by his thoughtfulness
and concern for the people of America. He began
where he lived and set before him the ideal of his
grandfather to make the world a better and a more
beautiful place in which to live.

This Dutch boy from Holland had what Ahab had
not. He learned contentment in being godly. He
knew that thoughts were bigger than things, and that
the life that counts most counts not because it is tied
up to possessions, but because it spends itself in real
helpfulness to humanity.

You may make the mistake of your life if you
imagine that no one can become an eminent success ex-
cept that one upon whom accidental fortune smiles. A

newsboy lived over a stable in London. He became ap-
prenticed to a book-binder for seven years and toiled
away at his monotonous task. He caught glimpses of
paragraphs in books and read as he had opportunity.
While binding the Encyclopedia Britannica, his eye fell
upon the article ^^Electricity.” He became interested,
tried simple experiments, attracted attention by his
earnestness, and was pointed out to Sir Humphrey
Davy, who helped him to help himself. This boy,
Michael Faraday, pushed his way along until Tyndall
said of him: ‘*He is the greatest experimental philoso-
pher the world has ever seen.”

You live in a great world. Bigger and better op-
portunities never were laid before young people. In
America you can be what you want to be if you
want to be hard enough. We bring to you the chal-
lenge: The ladder is placed by the side of the wall,
you have one foot upon it, it is up to you — will
yon climb?