Booker T. Washington and a life of excellence
If a task is once begun,
Never leave it ‘till it’s done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.
April 18, 2006
Defining moments of your life many times come in unexpected moments. How do you recognize these strategic, life directing moments? How do you handle them? Since they don’t stand up and shout at us, let me suggest you handle all of your life the same way. Consider this illustration from the life of Booker T. Washington who was born a slave reportedly on April 5, 1856. After emancipation, his family was so poverty stricken that he worked in salt furnaces and coal mines beginning at age nine. Always an intelligent and curious child, he yearned for an education and was frustrated when he could not receive good schooling locally. When he was 16 his parents allowed him to quit work to go to school. They had no money to help him, so he walked 200 miles to attend the Hampton Institute in Virginia.
The order from the head teacher was abrupt: “The classroom needs sweeping. Take the broom and sweep it.”
Young Washington knew that this was his chance. He swept the room three times, and then dusted the furniture four times. When the head teacher came back to evaluate his work, she inspected the floor closely and then used her handkerchief to rub the woodwork around the walls, the table and the students’ benches. When she could not find one speck of dust anywhere in the room, she said quietly, “I guess you will do to enter this institution.”
Cleaning a classroom was nothing less than Washington’s entrance examination to the Hampton Institute. In later years, he would recall this as the turning point in his life. He wrote in his autobiography, Up From Slavery, “I have passed several examinations since then, but I have always felt that this was the best one I ever passed.”
Slacking off, goofing off and dozing off rarely open doors of opportunity. Those doors are opened best by a consistently excellent effort. Give the world an effort of that caliber today!
Said Washington, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. Out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he is compelled to pass, he gets a strength, a confidence, that one misses whose pathway is comparatively smooth by reason of birth and race.”
Proverbs 22:29 says, “He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”
In John 17:4, Jesus Christ of Nazareth said to His Father in Heaven, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”