And So Life Goes

Barnes, Paul


  • Paul Barnes relates a series of experiences in which he was helped by people of differing religious faith, socioeconomic status, political affiliations or skin color, and how these experiences affirm his belief in the essential goodness of people.
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And now, This I Believe. The living philosophies of thoughtful men and women presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow
This I Believe. Paul R. Barnes is a writer. He is advertising copy chief with a Cleveland agency but describes himself as a partially frustrated playwright, poet and novelist with a little luck with articles. A native of New York City, he and his family of six children moved to Cleveland in nineteen-fifty. His adjustment to his new home is complete, except that he is a vociferous rooter for the Yankees. Here is Paul Barnes.
Last year I wrote an advertisement which pictured a little boy in pajamas kneeling beside his bed. The caption read, "Jimmy said two billion prayers," and the copy below started off with Jimmy's entire prayer, just these three words: "God bless everybody." Here was a form of patriotism that went far beyond the love of country, worthy as that is. Here was love of the entire human race. The sort of love which, unfortunately, seems reserved only for the very young.
Soon, Jimmy will begin to let hate seep in. First, perhaps, for another child who won't play Jimmy's way. Later, as Jimmy begins to grow up, he will hate someone who goes to a different church or whose skin is a different color.
And all the time he is growing up, Jimmy will, unfortunately, find new things to hate: the opposite political party; the boss he works for; the top sergeant who puts him on K.P.; the ball team from another city; people who have more money or a better car than he; his wife's relatives; the bus driver who doesn't wait for him; even little Willy, the neighbors kid, who happens to drive a ball through Jimmy's window. The Willy, perhaps, who says his little three word prayer every night: "God bless everybody."
I wish I could be as perfect a citizen of the human race as young Jimmy is—and Willy, and Jamie, and Susie, and the rest. I'm not. But because of several things that have happened in my life, I am trying. Four years ago, I wound up in a hospital.
Polio had paralyzed both my legs, and a patient from another ward—a man whose skin was not like mine—rolled his wheelchair by my bed to sympathize with my tough luck. His legs weren't paralyzed, they were amputated. Yet, there he was, sincerely sympathetic, giving me encouragement.
Another incident: Some years ago, I was broke, no job, kids were hungry, I owed everybody, prospects were mighty discouraging. Then somebody starting sending me money, anonymously. He kept sending it until I got back on my feet and it was sheer accident that I discovered who he was: A man whose religious faith was not my own.
Ten years ago, my wife was desperately ill in a TB sanatorium some distance from our home. I would not have been able to visit her had not a neighbor volunteered to take care of our young ones on visiting days—a neighbor who definitely lived on the other side of the tracks.
Another little incident took place one election day. Closing time at the polls was a matter of minutes, and I was late. As I was running along the side of the road, a car stopped and the driver picked me up and delivered me to the voting booth just in time. He was an ardent party worker… for the other party, and he knew my political leanings at the time. Yet, he stopped to pick me up.
One more seemingly unimportant event happened years ago when I was playing in the finals of a local tennis tournament.
It was a very close match and I was just one point away from defeat when I slipped and fell while returning a lob. My opponent had me completely at his mercy. Yet, his next drive went out by inches, while I lay there. Not over the fence—that would have been too obvious. Just by a couple of tactful inches. And he was the boy I used to hate, just because his father had a lot of money, and my father didn't.
And so life goes. My life, your life, everybody's life. We all meet people every day. They're not perfect, nor am I. I like them and I hope they like me. But even if they don't, I still think people are pretty wonderful. All people. Like little Jimmy, I, too, say, God bless everybody.
That was Paul R. Barnes, advertising copy chief of Meldrum and Fewsmith Incorporated in Cleveland.