(Given in July 1982 over Radio Excelsior L. R. 5,
Buenos Aires, at the invitation of the British Chamber of Commerce —
Sir Herbert Gibson, Bart.,
I greet ye weel ma birkies, and
I’m michty gled tae know
That yir money ‘s huddin oot in
This expensive vale below.
Tak’ he’rt o’ grace, ma callants, and
I’ll hope tae meet ye where
The Scots will no hae rivals, for
The rest will no be there.
My chief qualification for
being the mouthpiece of the British Chamber of Commerce to-night is that I
know little of Commerce and less of Finance. So I can look at affairs from
a vantage-point apart.
When the Chamber’s Chairman (that
expert, amongst many other things, on sheep) was made a Baronet, I
ventured to send him felicitations in the form of two limericks. His reply
"You are known by more than your
And you may be a preacher of note, sir;
But learn from this line
That I win every time.
At telling a sheep from a goat, sir."
The point of all this (for I am
leading up to a point) is that my one
— and admittedly slender — claim to talk for
the British Chamber of Commerce might conceivably lie in the gentle
implication of that last line of the Chamber’s President. For — speaking
ecclesiastically — it is part of my duty, not to divide, but to know the
sheep and the goats, as also to warn the goats in good times — con
With which introduction let
me to the business of the night. The text is one which I rescued from the
Autobiography of Harry Lauder. (Incidentally, it is the text of the Toc H
Concert to-night and on Friday night on behalf of our two premier
institutions of Helpfulness — the British Hospital and the British and
American Benevolent Society —the one spending over $1000 a day, and the
other over $250 a day — and both needing more). The text is short — two
words —"Keep" (no, not everything You’ve got and everything you can) but —
"Keep smiling". This is no counsel of ease. I know that as well as most.
But at a time like this, to keep smiling is a duty to the Community and a
most helpful obligation to yourself — perhaps even more to your wife,
husband, family and friends.
At the foot of my street
there’s an old Italian shoemaker and his little shop. He mends shoes and
sells cigarettes. On both counts I visit him oft. He works from 8 a.m. to
9 p.m., and he whistles all the time. His cheerful concentration is an
asset to our district. He preaches a rattling good sermon without opening
his mouth. He’s got his worries — like you and me — but they don’t
obtrude. I told him he reminded me of Longfellow’s Village Blacksmith
sorrowing — onward through life he goes;
"Each morning sees some task
begin, each evening sees it close;
"Something accomplished, something done, has earned a night’s repose."
I wonder if you agree with me that
the present times are doing for us what all the sermons of the century
couldn’t do —they’re forcing us
back on the homely virtues — pride in the humblest piece of work;
gratitude for things we never were vocally grateful for before, such as
food to eat and a bed to lie down on; the discovery that the most real,
because most lasting, joys are to be found in our home and family circle.
All of which, and more, is, I think, what a man meant when he said that
the crisis would do us all good, if it lasted long enough. A few years ago
any gratitude we expressed was only for the profits which our work brought
us. To-day we’ve learned to be grateful for work itself, and accordingly
our feet are treading firmer ground.
Some months ago a newspaper
reporter asked the scientist Einstein if he could give him a formula for
success in life. Einstein replied: "Suppose we call success "A" —the
letter A. Then putting it mathematically A=X+Y+Z. X is work and Y is
play." "And what is Z?" asked the reporter. "Z", said Einstein, "is
keeping your mouth shut." If I might use a phrase which Professors were
wont to use freely concerning essays which I wrote in their classes, I
would say— "Good, as far as it goes."
To work and play and a shut mouth, I would, however,
add for to-day—an open heart and a smiling face. No, don’t switch off in
fear that I’m working up to a sermon. But many in our Community just now
haven’t work, and others have so much that they can’t play. And the open
heart, the word of sympathy, the quiet handshake, these are small things
of big value to-day, and both the British Community and the British
Chamber of Commerce are proving by their helpfulness that it is not
necessary to be a Communist before you can call your less fortunate friend
Said a man some time ago to a father whose boy had been
proving a bit of a rake — "How is John doing
now?" "John", replied the father, "is, I am afraid, going completely to
the dogs." "Well," said the friend, "if he were my boy, I’d kick him out."
"And if he were your boy, I’d kick him out," said the
father, and then added —"But my trouble is that
he’s not your boy but my boy." There’s a lot of love’s wisdom in that
Our English-speaking community, not only in the city,
but in the far outposts of the Republic, is getting warmed up to the
outlook that those threatened with eviction from their homes,—the children
who have to be denied their education—those (hardest case of all
sometimes) whose savings have disappeared in the struggle of to-day—that
these are very much "our boys". And we who have food and a bed, and work
to do, and the wherewithal to pay our way at the end of the month—we are
(all of us) the better for the enlarged outlook of the open heart. What is
sympathy after all but an enlarged capacity for brotherliness?
But perhaps I am still hovering dangerously near that
nebulous borderline which divides a "talk" from a sermon. So let me to my
point again. KEEP SMILING. That’s going to be easier for some than for
others, and yet I would put it to you as your definite helpful duty to the
community and to yourself to-day.
There are some folks, who, to an unknowing world that
doesn’t look deep into the hearts of men, may appear to be somewhat
unorthodox Christians. Yet I’ve noticed that they often have, and they
often keep on having, what Robert Louis Stevenson called "a glorious
I would like to quote just four lines of his verse
"If I have faltered more or less,
in my great task of happiness,
"If I have moved amongst my race,
and shewn no glorious morning face".
Stevenson is right —
happiness is a task laid on us. You know I sometimes think that such
cheery (if unorthodox) souls, when—at the end of the day—they reach the
Pearly Gates and Golden—I sometimes think that they’ll pass the barrier
unquestioned, while you and I (with longer if more orthodox faces) will
have to stand in the queue.
We all know that there are plenty of things around us
here which we would sometimes like to criticise to-day. When we feel like
that, let us remember that even the sun has spots on it. And a study of
the spots on the sun may be interesting, but the sun is not all spots
— it’s mostly sunshine. You’ll find that if you
try to look for the spots.
On the material plane alone, we here in Argentina live
with sunny skies over our heads and a fertile earth beneath our feet. We
live in a country that produces prime necessities of life. Men must have
food for their insides and clothes for their outsides, and boots for their
feet — beef, mutton and maize
— wheat and wool and leather. And the Argentine produces these in
quantities that make it possible for her to live on something like 1/10 of
her main products and to export about 9/10. I wonder if some statistician
who is listening in, could tell us if this must not be nearly a world
And the Argentine too is, I understand, meeting all her
foreign debts. The world may be taking off its hat to the Argentine soon.
But there’s a deeper reason than all this for keeping
smiling, and it is that a happy face is, in itself, a thing of great
commercial value. What is true in small business is true in great
business. And if a smiling face be the top-story of our building, and an
honest as well as an open heart the foundation, then we’re going to keep a
tight hold of this great asset - "Palabra de Inglés". Grit and gumption
— with a little grace —
will work other wonders.
So keep smiling — there are
hundreds of warm, generous hearts in our community —only
two hours ago I received at my home a gift that will mean that some
families that never have asked, and never will ask anything, are going to
get a lift with some crying needs of their children.
Now my time’s up. But I’m sure the British Chamber of
Commerce will allow me to wish (in their name) to the aged and the sick
and the many who know not what a day may bring forth —
to wish to them especially a good night’s sleep, and their full
share of the sun when it rises in the morning.
Good night and a Blessing on you all.