You Have to Water the Plant

Stowe, Leland


  • Leland Stowe talks about his experiences around the world meeting different people and the similarities he saw and how his expereinces convinced him that everyone should try to undestand other people and act with comapsiion and empathy.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Most newspapermen, chasing facts through a welter of deceit and propaganda, are inclined to become cynics. My colleague Leland Stowe is an important exception. Distinguished author, foreign correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner, Lee Stowe has observed the world from Main Street to Manchuria and back. Here he gives his creed.
For the things I believe in, I must give a reporter’s answer. Like everyone else, it’s out of my own experience. For twenty-four years I’ve been up to my neck in the world’s troubles; meeting people in dozens of foreign countries; watching other nations drift into war—and America too. It’s convinced
me that one of the most important things in life, for every one of us, is understanding—trying to see the other fellow’s point of view. I’ve often thought: If I could really put myself in the other person’s shoes, see things the way he sees them, feel what he feels, how much more tolerant and fair I’d be.
I remember, back in the twenties, the bitter arguments between Europeans and Americans about reducing the war debts. I had to explain what the Europeans felt, and why. I learned then that there’s almost always some right, and some wrong, on both sides. We didn’t think enough about the Europeans’ point of view. They didn’t think enough about ours. When lack of understanding becomes pronounced, it leads to
hatred and war. But it’s like that in our daily life, too. If I talk disparagingly about any racial group, I promote hatred—dissension in our society. I haven’t thought how I would feel if I belonged to that group.
In Berlin I saw Hitler’s thugs beating up helpless Jews. Then, back home, sometimes I heard people say: “Well, it’s their affair.” They forgot that freedom and fair play belong to all human beings—not to lucky Americans only. They forgot that people are people—of whatever creed, or color, or nationality. I remember the poor Spanish and Greek peasants who shared their bread and cheese with me—all they had! And I remember the old Russian woman who made me take her bed, while she slept on the floor. So many
simple people who couldn’t speak my language but spoke with their hearts.
One of the happiest things in my life is this: My best friends are like a roster of the United Nations—Europeans, Asians, Latin Americans, North Americans—just people, from all over the world. And the best part is discovering how much we have in common; the constant reminder that friendship has no national barriers whatever; the knowledge that all kinds of people really can understand each other if given half a chance.
We all have to live in this world—in this world. But I’ve found more of the good than the bad in most people—in every country. I think you only have to look—really to look. Understanding is a flower
blossoming. But you have to water the plant. Then, when it blossoms, what a wonderful feeling it is! You feel that way when you make a new friend; so do I. I guess understanding really is charity and love. I know it gives a new meaning to our lives. When I die, I wish people might say: “He helped people to understand each other better.” Of course, I must often fail. But just trying makes living seem worthwhile.
Those were the beliefs of a great reporter, Leland Stowe, who remembers what so many of us find it so easy to forget: scratch a man and you’ll discover a human being, no matter how he spells his name or where he hails from.