One of my next door neighbours children, a young girl had planted an acorn in their own small bit of farmland, and in the Spring it had become a small tiny oakling. In a short while there sprang up near him a beautiful violet, a sunflower, a runner-bean, and a silver-birch tree. The small tiny oakling was so pleased to see them, for he had been lonely and dull until they had appeared. One particular morning the violet said:
"My dear neighbour and friend, I shall flower tomorrow!"
"What do you mean?", asked the oakling.
" Wait and you will see tomorrow, " replied the violet.
" I am in great anticipation, and so very happy and excited!"
Sure enough the following morning most of the violet buds had opened, and there was a sweet aroma in the air, and some of the girl's friends came and saw them and spoke, "Oh, what beautiful violets!", tenderly picking two or three of them, pinning them to their dresses as they went away giggling to themselves.
"How charming it is, " said the violet, "to have my flowers taken by those gentle loving hands and kissed by their happy, smiling, tender lips! I feel so sorry for you my dear neighbour! I'm so sorry you have no flowers. My prayer is you make haste and grow quickly."
But the little oakling could not force himself up to the heat for flowering, though he tried very hard indeed, and was most miserable he could not. When the runner-bean began to grow, he found a nearby stick, round where he could twine. It wasn't long before he was much higher than the oakling, and continued growing at a great pace. One morning he called down to the little oakling:
" Hello my friend! What are you doing down there? Why don't you just wist about and lay hold of something that will help you to get up in the world. Look at me! See at what a fantastic rate I am growing up!"
The little oakling felt ashamed of himself. He couldn't twist about at all, and he continued to grow so very slowly. In a short while the sunflower was also growing fast, and he too gave the oak tree some advice.
"You my friend are far too solid and dumpy, " he said.
"That's not the way to flourish. Make yourself hollow, as I do. Throw yourself more to the outside of yourself, and see yourself prosper."
Unfortunately, the oakling could not even understand what the sunflower meant, and could not imitate him in the least.
"What a poor, useless tree I am!", he said to himself.
"I cannot flower like the beautiful violet, or twist like the runner-bean, or rush upward like the sunflower."
The silver-birch tree overheard him, and answered:
"You my friend cannot be expected to do as they do. You and I are trees, while they are only annuals. They are going to die in the autumn, but we shall not. Yes, my friend, you are rather slow, I must confess. Take my example, and try to shoot up a little quicker, and then you will be all right!"
The oakling was comforted by what the silver-birch said, but still wished he could grow more like him. I need not tell you that long after the silver-birch had decayed, the oakling had become a young, strong, and mighty oak tree. Now, people looked up at him and said, " What a proud, majestic tree!", and birds of every description sang their morning choruses perching on its branches, and cattle laid down to rest under its shadow in the summer heat, and the great-grand children of the young girls who had culled the violet buds sat and talked in its cool shade. Then the oak tree was comforted for his former slowness. Then he mumurmed to himself what he over-heard a young pastor say one afternoon, "He who grows slowly goes stronger!"
I have told you this story to encourage children, boys and girls of all age groups, who are called dumb, dull and think themselves so. And the children who try and try, and yet are outstripped by others much brighter and quicker learners than they. Please, don't be disheartened, if you nvere claim a prize, or if you are at the bottom of the class generally. Keep working on and try to be cheerful and good-tempered. Most likely you are not stupid, though you may be a slow learner. Ther have been plenty of children who were reckoned dull, dumb and slow, who afterwards become great men and women. Some of the greatest men and women were not smart when they were small children. So cheer up, slow boys and girls; do what you can; do it thoroughly and solidly, and you may be wise and worthy men and women of this world. The life of our Master, Jesus Christ was, so far as we know, very quiet and retired for nearly thirty years. So be of good courage, slow boys and girls, there may be great things for you to do by-and-by, and most certainly there will be good things ahead, if you are studious, patient, earnest and obedient to the Master and Teacher - Jesus Christ!
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