Almost a Man - Part 2

Part 2

"And that injury might be pa.s.sed on to future generations. There lived a poor girl, about a hundred years ago, who was uncared for by good people and wronged by evil ones, and to-day she is known as a 'mother of criminals,' and no one can tell where the mischief will end. You would feel very indignant if you knew that some one had done your mother an injury in her girlhood, and you would feel the same way should any one wrong your sisters."

"I knocked Bill Jones down last week because he said something to my sister Kate."

"You felt a righteous anger and manifested it. Well, in all probability you will some day marry. If so, there is in the world to-day the girl who will be your wife. How do you want her to be treated by the boys who are her school-companions? Do you like to think that they are rough with her, or playing at lovering with her? Is it a pleasant thought that she is allowing them to caress her or write her silly sentimental notes?"

Carl's face was scarlet, but he answered bravely; "No, it isn't."

The Doctor continued. "Some day, in all likelihood, a little girl-child will climb upon your knee and call you papa. No creature can ever be to you what that little daughter will be. If any one should injure her----."

"I'd kill him," broke in Carl hotly.

"If you feel that way, dear boy, you should remember that every girl is some one's daughter, perhaps some one's sister, will probably be some one's wife and some one's mother, so that all girls should be sacred to you, treated with chivalrous courtesy and protected even as you feel you would protect those who may belong especially to you."

"But don't you believe in boys and girls being friends at all?"

"Most a.s.suredly I do. Nothing is more charming than the frank comradeship of girls and boys, and that is why I am so sorry to see them spoil it with sentimentality. They ought to be good friends, helping each other, having jolly good times together, but never in ways that will bring a blush to the cheeks of either, now, or in the years to come."

A rap sounded on the door and the maid entered with a note which she gave to the doctor, who handed it to Carl, saying, "Here is the note for Miss Bell. I have kept you waiting a long time, but I hope it has not been unprofitable."

"Indeed it has not. I am ever so much obliged to you, I am sure."

"And if you ever wish to talk to me again you will feel free to come, will you not?"

"Yes, ma'am, I surely will," answered the lad with a frank clasp of the hand.

"Wait a moment," said the doctor, "I have just thought of a little book that I am sure you will be interested in reading. It is called 'A Gateway and a Gift,' and it deals with some of the questions we have been talking about this evening. You can lend it to some of your boy friends if you wish."

"Thank you," said Carl, taking the book which the doctor handed him, and then with another "Good night," he walked away in the darkness.

The note which he gave to Miss Bell the next morning read merely:

"Don't say anything to Carl. Just wait."

If Miss Bell had seen a note slipped by Carl into Susie Glenn's hand an hour later she might have thought it an evidence that the doctor's plan had failed. But had she read the note her opinion would have been that it had succeeded. It read:

"Dear Susie:--It was real mean of me to write that note yesterday. Will you forgive me? Say, Susie, I think all this nonsense about lovers and sweethearts is silly rot, don't you?

Let's be just friends. Respectfully yours,


Susie's answer was short but to the point. It read:

"All right. Let's.


Several months later Miss Bell and Miss Lane called again on Dr.


"Have you come with another problem?" asked the doctor.

"No, we have come to report progress and to learn, if possible, just how it has come about. There has been a wonderful change in the school. The girls and boys are no less friendly, but it is without that silly sentimentality which was so annoying. They are now just real good comrades, and seem to help each other in being orderly, polite, and studious. How did you do it?"

"Perhaps all credit is not due to me, but I will say that I gave Carl the instruction I thought he needed and he has pa.s.sed the good word along. Several of the boys have met with me once a month to study concerning themselves, and I can see that they have grown to have a reverence for themselves and a deep regard for all womanhood. Carl was in last evening, and said, 'Dr. Barrett, I am so glad Miss Bell sent me with that note to you, for your talk to me that night has changed my whole life, I know. I feel so much cleaner all through, and have so much more respect for myself. And I think so differently of girls and women, and especially of my mother, and I realize as I never did before how important a thing it is to be almost a man.'"


Three gateways span the path of earthly existence: one at the entrance which we call the gate of birth; one at the close which we call the gate of death, and one at the entrance to the wondrous Land of the Teens, which we call the gate of manhood or of womanhood. At each of these gates a wonderful gift is presented to each individual. At the gate of birth it is the gift of earthly life, at death it is the gift of continued life, and at the gate which opens into the Land of the Teens it is the gift of creative life. You see that each gift is of life.

The path of earthly life, beginning at the gateway of birth, through the sunny meadow-land of Childhood, and also through a strange, mysterious land to which we have referred as the Land of the Teens, before reaching the Heights of Maturity. This Land of the Teens is peculiar in that the inhabitants are neither children nor adults, and yet, with the inexperience of children, they have many of the desires and emotions of grown-up people. This const.i.tutes an element of great danger, while another source of danger is the fact that adequate guidance is not always given in this transition period, or, if proffered, is proudly rejected by those who think that being in their "teens" makes them wise above that which is written.

When we visit foreign lands we are grateful for guidance and direction, especially if we are not acquainted with the language; so, if we do not hire a guide we, at least, buy a guide-book. It seems to me, then, that we ought not to rebel against guides through the Land of the Teens, realizing that one who has traveled through a country can point out beauties and warn against dangers which would not be recognized by the inexperienced traveler.

We can visit England, Italy, or Germany many times, and at each journey can profit by former experiences, but we pa.s.s through the Land of the Teens but once, and the lessons we learn on that journey we can only utilize for the benefit of others. This is why many people on the Heights of Maturity are anxious to light a beacon for those who are still in their "teens." They would gladly help others to shun the by-paths where they have met disaster, for they have learned the very solemn truth that in youth one is determining what maturity shall be.

The seeds sown in the sunny meadow of Childhood and in the broader fields of the Land of the Teens are harvested in the uplands of Maturity, and the harvest is always greater than the seed sown. The petulance and pouting of the child hardens into the gruffness, bad-temper, and moroseness of the man; the idleness and shirking of the youth becomes the shiftlessness and unreliability of the adult; the boy's neglect of duty and unwearied search for pleasure may be harvested in dissipation and ruin in mature life. It is, then, a very serious thing to be pa.s.sing through one's "teens," and the wise youth will welcome any guide who will show him a safe path. May I claim the privilege of acting for a little time in that capacity?

The King of this land has made laws for its government and wisdom, has builded paths wherein one may walk in safety. The laws made by the King are not harsh and cruel, but are beneficent, and he denies no real good.

He says to the traveler, "You belong to me, and I am desirous of your highest welfare; therefore, obey me and you shall be rewarded; disobey me and you shall be punished." It needs some moral courage to bravely stay in the path of Wisdom, for there are many allurements to leave it; more particularly as the inexperience of the traveler does not warn him of the dangers of following pleasures that lead away from wisdom's ways.

The guide worthy of trust must not fail to point out these dangers; and the prudent youth will listen to the warning voice and walk in Wisdom's ways, for "all her ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."

We talk much about our personal liberty, and a.s.sert that we have a right to live in Maine or California, but we have not that much liberty in regard to dwelling in the Land of the Teens. If we are ever to reach the Heights of Maturity we must spend ten years in the Teens. We cannot sell our domain, nor give it away, and we cannot even hire some one to cultivate it for us. This being the case, it becomes important for us to study the soil and how best to develop its advantages.

We find that the land has three divisions: the Domain of the Body, the Field of Intellect, and the Garden of the Heart,--the same divisions that exist in the Sunny Land of Childhood, and that we have been cultivating ever since we were born. These are the kingdoms which came to us with the gift of life. We recognize that the gifts which come to us at birth and death are of life for ourselves alone, and we have had no thought during our childish years except to develop our powers for our own advantage. It may be we have not felt perfectly satisfied with our lot in life, but we have felt that we were not responsible for this.

We did not choose to be born in America instead of Asia, though we do not rebel at this fact. We did not select to be white instead of black.

It is not our fault if we are born of a family in which consumption is an inheritance; and, on the other hand, we can claim no credit to ourselves if we have inherited strong bodies with healthful tendencies.

It is our misfortune, and not our fault, if we are not quite perfectly poised by nature; it is our good fortune, not our foresight, if we have genius instead of mediocrity. The gifts that come to us through inheritance are ours without blame or credit to us but they bring with them the responsibility of their use. We are responsible for maintaining or increasing our dower of health by obedience to physical laws; responsible for the cultivation of our intellects, for the development of inherited virtues, and the annihilation of inherited vices.

If you study your characteristics and talents you find that they repeat those of your ancestry. Your eyes, hair, mouth, chin, your stature, figure, complexion, your talents, capabilities, tendencies, your likes and dislikes, your faults as well as your virtues are repet.i.tions of those who preceded you in this living network of existence of which you form a part. If you are not like father or mother you may be like grandfather or great-grandmother. If you do not find yourself repeating the characteristics or personality of any one ancestor, you may find yourself a composite photograph of several. And even if you cannot trace in yourself a likeness to any family representative, you may still be a.s.sured that from some of them your traits have come to you. You have only to recall the complexity of your sources of inheritance and then remember how many words can be spelled from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet to see that you can hardly measure the peculiar forces of mind and body that may come to you though that power of transmission which we call heredity.

It may occur to you to ask why, if we are not responsible for our inheritances, is it needful to give them any particular thought? There are two reasons why we should consider the good and bad characteristics which may be ours through inheritance. In the first place, heredity is not fatality, and we are not absolutely obliged to follow the paths which our ancestors marked out for us, and in the second place, we can, by understanding our own characters, mark out better paths for our posterity. We are not only receivers of life, but we may be also givers of life, and this is the gift that comes to you at the entrance to the Land of the Teens. Can you imagine a more important period in the life of an individual than that point where is intrusted to him the physical powers which make him the arbiter of the destiny of those who come after him?

The gift of possible life for others is even more marvelous than that of actual life for one's self and brings with it greater responsibility. It is accompanied with marked physical changes. You have observed them in yourself, though you perhaps have not understood them. Up to this time you have been but a child, and all your physical forces have been occupied in keeping you alive and growing. But you are now to become a man, with powers that will unite you to the race; powers that will give you the ability to form a new link in the living chain that now ends with you. You have noticed the rapid unfolding of your bodily powers; you have become conscious of new and strange emotions; you have, it may be, found yourself becoming irritable and have felt bewildered with the new aspects of life and have wondered what it all means. It may be you have felt as did one boy who said to his mother, to whom he confided all his problems of life: "Mamma, I want to kick and cry, and I don't know why." The mother knew. She understood the strange unfolding that was going on in his physical organism, and she kindly explained it to him, telling him that he must have patience with himself, and govern himself by his judgment and not allow himself to be carried away by impulse, a.s.suring him that G.o.d would hold him as responsible for purity of character as He would the dear sister of whom they all felt so careful.

He should reverence his manhood, even as he expected her to reverence her womanhood. This is necessary, not only for the good of each individual, but also for the eternal interest of future generations.

This entrance into the Land of the Teens is a serious, even a dangerous period, for if you have not had right instruction you may be led, or fall into habits of wrong doing or thinking. If you are rightly taught you will begin to have an added reverence for yourselves in that G.o.d is dignifying you with new powers that will bring you more nearly into co-partnership with himself. These powers, the most sacred of all that have come to you, need years for development, and should be guarded by pure thoughts and kept for their holy office of promoting the earthly usefulness and eternal blessedness of those who hereafter will owe both earthly and immortal life to you.

I have said that we are not responsible for the dower of virtues or of vices which are ours by inheritance, but we are responsible for the inheritances of our children, and this is a most solemn thought. Do you not begin to see that we cannot value ourselves too highly if we have the right idea of what our real worth is? We can scarcely overestimate the results of our own deeds. We may think it does not matter if we do not always tell the exact truth; if at some times we equivocate and at others exaggerate, but when we remember that truth is the foundation of character, and realize that by our little equivocations or exaggerations we may be weakening the foundations of many who are from us to receive their talents and tendencies, we begin to see that the matter is a very serious one. I am sometimes told that young people will not be influenced by a consideration for the welfare of unborn generations whose existence is very problematical in their thought; but my observation is that young folks are much more sensible than we give them credit for being. More than one young man has said to me: "I was never taught that my conduct and thought would impress themselves upon my children, but now that I see that such is the case, I am sure that I will hereafter be more careful of my life than I ever have been."

This field of investigation is a broad one, and even if you never have an opportunity to study the subject scientifically you can still be of incalculable benefit to humanity by ever remembering that you are living for an earthly, as well as for a heavenly immortality. The young people who to-day are in the Land of the Teens are they who are determining the characteristics of the men and women of the Twentieth Century, creating the standards of thought and action, the methods of business, the level of morals, in fact the whole status of society in the world of a hundred years to come.

It is a very wonderful fact that G.o.d has so created us that the result of our deeds is not limited to our own lives, but makes its impress upon those who are to come after us. We are not separate units, but are links in a living chain of endless transmission. This fact makes our lives of far greater consequence than if, in their results, they were limited to ourselves. If we are anxious concerning the future of our country, we may take to heart the thought that it will be what we ourselves have made it. The Bible expresses the same idea in many ways. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," does not mean merely that his own future will be influenced by his conduct, but that his future in his children will be a record which he himself has made.

Men often make their wills and bequeath to their children their gold or houses and lands, but sometimes against their wills they bequeath to their children a bodily dwelling of inferior material, and so poor in construction that it very soon falls into decay through disease, or in very early life becomes a tottering ruin. It would seem rather amusing to us if one should sit down and write his will and say: "I bequeath to my daughter Mary my yellow, blotched and pimpled complexion, resulting from my own bad habits of life. I bequeath to my son John, the effects of my habits of dissipation in my youth, with a like love for alcoholic liquors and tobacco. I bequeath to my son Harry my petulant, irritable disposition, and the rheumatic gout which I have brought upon myself by disobedience to physical law; and to my daughter Elizabeth, my trembling nerves and weak moral nature." But this is, in truth, what many parents do, and the children find it a sad, instead of an amusing fact.