Stepping forward a bit, Chamberlain began. “Gabriel, I believe that when one doesn’t know what to do, he should do something. At that moment of panic or discouragement, one cannot do everything, but he can do something. Will doing something change the world? I believe that this is what you meant when you said, ‘It is the only thing that ever has.” Chamberlain stepped back.
Lincoln raised his hand and spoke. “After the war, our nations economy was in a shambles. It seemed that a full quarter of the population was out of work. No one, Gabriel, knew what to do. Most, of course, complained about the situation, about the war, and about me. In effect, I saw that they were complaining about the present, the past, and a person they did not know, who presumably held their job prospects in his hands.
“One afternoon, I was walking around Washington…” Lincoln turned to one of the more recent U.S. Presidents who was standing nearby and added, “Some of us used to do that, you know.” There were several chuckles from the audience. Seeing no response from Gabriel, Lincoln continued. “So there I was, walking with Mary, and a group of men approached us.
“These men were, they said, desperate for work. No jobs, they said. They told me they had tried everything. I asked what they did when they weren’t looking for work. one man told me he stayed at home when he wasn’t looking for work. Several men said they built a fire on a vacant lot and sat beside it. Two of them confessed they were so depressed that they had stopped seeking jobs at all.”
Lincoln frowned for a moment, then opened his eyes widely, he said, “I didn’t know what to tell them, ‘you simply cannot sit around wasting your unused time. Continue to look for work, but in the time you have left, do something. Anything.’
“I said to them, ‘The challenge I see in your eyes is that you have forgotten the value you possess as a human being. You have forgotten the value with which the Almighty created you. So what value do you have?” I pointed to one of them. ‘You there,’ I said. ‘Can you read?’ and he indicated that he could. ‘Then find someone who can’t, and read to them. Read to the blind, the elderly, the illiterate. Do something!’
“To another I said, ‘You look very strong. Can you carry things?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Then find people who need things carried, and do it! Men, listen carefully,’ I said. ‘I am not suggesting you find someone who needs weeds pulled and ask if you can pull them for a dollar. No! I am saying go out into your communities, find weeds that need pulling…and pull them!
“‘I believe that you men will see amazing things happen in your lives. As you do something, you will renew your belief in yourselves. You will remember again the value that you really have as human beings. And another, perhaps more important thing will occur. Others will begin to see value in you. No longer will you be the desperate person, the sad person, the out-of-work person.
“As people watch you–and they always do–they will begin to say, “have you noticed that fellow who is always reading for people? have you seen that man who is always carrying things for others? Have you spotted the boy who is always fixing things for folks, who is always helping?” Men, I say to you now that as others watch, they will begin to place a value on you they never had before.’
“I winked at them and said, ‘And you know what happens to people of value, don’t you? They gain opportunities; they get help; they receive job offers. Why? Because they did something when they didn’t know what to do.”
To read more, you’ll need to buy the book. I encourage everyone in this economy to buy this book. It gives hope in a vacant and dark time of our country.