My dear Epoch Readers,
So many really beautiful letters have come to me since I last wrote for the Letter Box, I am at a loss to know which to use this month. Each one is so precious to me, so sacred, so full of real joy for my heart that just for a moment the thought comes, "These are too sacred, and too precious to publish," but then I remembered how the hearts of my readers always go out in loving sympathy and many prayers for those who write to me, and whose letters they are privileged to read in the Letter Box, for it is a privilege, and I know my readers feel it to be so. Not that I can give all the contents of those letters, for some sentences are too private altogether for even the Letter Box, and those expressions of loving appreciation meant for my eyes alone, I must withhold also. But I know how my "boys" letters are read—I know the loving sympathy and helpful thoughts that go to them from my readers—so I must this month give extracts from just a few of the letters which have come to me from different Fronts the last two or three weeks.
Here is one from the Salonica Army written on Christmas Day:—
Dear Mrs. Allen,
Thank you for your great kindness in sending me some of your books and magazines. I have read them all over and over again, and on each occasion find some new inspiration and help. They grip in such a way that one must feel better for having read them. Knowing that your great work in life is for the upliftment of all, and seeking a practical means of showing my thanks to you, I placed the books and Epochs in the Company Library so that my comrades might have the opportunity of reading them. The result has been very gratifying and cheering, for on several occasions one has gripped me by the hand and thanked me for leaving the books there. Also in this way I have made new friends and found many thoughtful minds amongst the apparently thoughtless. You can quite imagine the joy it was to me to meet a few such in a dug out to talk over those things that matter. As your books are so often "out," it is evident that others are reading them unknown to me, so that a wide influence is undoubtedly being made. Since I arrived in this wild country I have been greatly impressed by the beauties of Nature and God's Majesty revealed in them. The massive mountain range with snow clad peaks, the rushing mountain streams, falling in rocky cascades and mighty waterfalls as they wind their course downward; the sunrise and sunset, and the wonderful canopy of stars. Then the wonderful variety of wild flowers—those little messengers of cheer—which cover the fields and hillsides with beauty—all these, and many other aspects of Nature prove to us the care of God.
Pte. E. G. N.
In the Field, Palestine.
My dear Mrs. Allen,
Thank you so much for your very kind letter to me of 29th of October, received on the 17th of last month. It would seem that our thoughts must have been somewhat alike about that time for my last letter to you bears the same date...Hoping to have gone away on leave before now I had looked forward to being able to write you a much more interesting letter. I would like to ask you if you would send out to me here month by month The Epoch commencing with the January Number...I so often feel I want to see The Epoch. Situated as I am at present I have the opportunity of carrying some things about with me when we move from time to time. I still carry with me your book Personality which you sent to me last Christmas, and I frequently read one or two chapters...And now Christmas with all its memories is with us again. How many poor wanderers were hoping that even if we were unable to be at home at this season, the strife and struggle would be over. I call to mind Grey's words, "Man never is, but always to be blest," and so with the passing of this year our hopes are carried on, and we and all, hope and pray that before another year has passed Peace will once more reign in the nations of the earth. I do hope that all your dear "soldier boys" keep in touch with you. Be assured that my thoughts and good wishes are ever with you.
Cpl. E. B. P.
Dear Mrs. Allen,
I will now reply to your splendidly kind letter. Since I received it I have been on leave in Dear Old Blighty, and have spent four glorious days at —— with ——. I have been to Holy Communion here this morning in our Y.M.C.A. Hut. We did enjoy the service. One of the good ladies, one just like I imagine you must be, came too. If she only knew how much the boys appreciated that! Yes, swearing is a very bad habit and I promise to try very hard to drop it altogether, not only because I know it is wrong, but also to please you and my friend in Blighty, and also the good ladies at the Y.M.C.A. I do wish you could have seen my friend and I reading and comparing your dear kind letters together by the light of the fire...May God bless you for your kindly sympathy.
With the British Army, Flanders.
Dear Mrs. Allen,
Your charming book, Life’s Inspirations, came at a time when weary and depressed I felt a longing for peace and rest. The few pages l have read come with the fragrant breath of the hills and the valleys. the glory of the sunshine, the vastness of the skies, the splendor of the meadow-land, lifting me out of my surroundings. Thank you, and thank you again for the uplifting influence of a personality in harmony with The All. I shall cherish the book for all it contains. Words cannot convey the gratitude I have. But you know the appreciation that is wordless..Your book fills me with an intense, unutterable longing that I might be a channel through which the Infinite finds expression, as you are. God keep you ever in touch with Himself, and use you to bring many another weary traveler into the fragrance of Life’s beautiful garden. Rev. H—
I have given you a peep into a few of` those letters that are so valued and so precious to me, and I have done so that you may in the hour of your prayer or meditation send a thought of love and blessing to those men who are so far from home and loved ones, and who, in spite of their brave hearts and noble self-sacrifice, must at times be very, very lonely. Remember them in loving thought with me.
In all your writings, both in The Epoch and in your books I know you ever glorify the common-place; you try to show us the whole world, in every detail, as a "thing of beauty." Nevertheless, I cannot attain unto it. I fret because l am bound to the commonplace, and I fail to see the essential in the small things of life—the daily tasks and duties falling to my lot, and the lot of thousands like me—they seem so little, so mean, and of so little importance in the Great Whole. There, now you have it all in a nutshell. What have you to say to me? You may answer this in the Letter Box. Do not waste your valuable time in replying privately to my croak! I will wait for the March Epoch.
Dear "Eager Heart,"
Are you a reader of the James Allen books? I think not, for if you were you would know that everything in the Universe is made up of little things, that, —as James Allen says in one of his books—"the perfection of the great is beset upon the perfection of the small," and it certainly must be very plain to us that unless the atom were perfect the Whole would be imperfect. He says again,—"If any particle were omitted the aggregate would cease to be." So we know that the universe is perfect because the smallest star is perfect; the equilibrium of the earth is perfect because the grain of dust is perfect. Were the small things out of balance the whole would fall to pieces—it would cease to be. Life is made up of small tasks and duties, and what you call the common-place is just as essential and important as that which perhaps you regard as great and important. Character is shown more in the way an individual performs small duties than in the way he, or she, carries out "great" undertakings. We are not willing to do the small things, so "if the prophet bid thee do some great thing, would’st thou not have done it?" is repeated over and over again, but our ears are deaf to the Mystic Voice, and our eyes are blind to the truly great waiting for our recognition in the apparently small. Long years ago I came into the knowledge that I must first learn to be faithful in the small tasks and duties of life before I could hope to hear the "Come up higher." I must perfect the lower before I could expect to gain the higher; that, according to the earnestness and perfection of my work in what you call the commonplace, would depend my promotion—if I may use that word in the Spiritual sense. The enlightened man or woman knows the value of the small, because the path to greatness always has its beginning in the small things, even among what at times might be called the trivial things of life. And by greatness I do not mean worldly honors, titles, or position, for, as you know, sometimes these things are very small. Surely we must know the true value of the moment before we can live in the true realization of the worth of the day? We must first know the worth of the small before we can anything like approach the knowledge of the great. "If I have told you of earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell ye of heavenly things?" asked the Christ. We must first make our passing greeting inspiring to the stranger or he will never wish for our friendly intercourse. You know how we all form our estimate of others. Not by their social position, or their wealth, or their reputation, but by the little things belonging to their everyday life as we see it,—How they greet us in the street, how they smile, how they look, how they handle the happenings of unexpected events, how they act under sudden and unusual occurrences. These are the "small things" of life so-called, but in reality they are the very foundation stones upon which life and character are built, and to fail to be great in them is to miss greatness forever. Oh, Eager Heart, look for the sublime in the ordinary—it is there! Seek for the Beautiful in the commonplace—you shall find it! Remember the abundant life and beauty of the forest oak was once hidden in the heart of the little brown acorn. There is only one Royal Road to greatness and that is by acting strongly and wisely in the present moment. There is only one High Way to perfection, and that is through the faithful performance of even the smallest and lowliest duty. How often we find the sublime very near to the ridiculous. Just as I write the above there comes singing in my ears a line or two from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Opera H .M .S. Pinafore—"And he polished up that handle so carefully, that now he is the ruler of the King’s Navy." How often we find the greatest truths wrapped in the most ordinary work-a-day garments, and, to him who seeks the highest, the highest will be found by him where other men pass it by, and it will sound in his ears where other men only find amusement. Truly, "Earth’s crammed with heaven." Open your eyes, Eager Heart, and look. —Yours affectionately,