This I Believe

Stewart, George


  • Lt. Col. George Stewart, Air Force Interpreter of American Life and Culture to the British Armed Forces, describes how he developed a moral code based on friendliness, and explains how his faith in people developed because of his neighbors' friendliness, and how Jesus demonstrated God's friendliness during His time on earth.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Lt. Col. George Stewart of the Air Force had the unique job of interpreting American life and culture to the British armed forces in 37 countries. Now at the age of 60, he is also the author of a number of religious books, and was at one time a lecturer at the Yale Divinity School. Here is Lt. Col. Stewart.
As a sickly child of divorced parents, reared in poverty, I knew fear and want and sorrow. But as I grew older, I
soon discovered, also, the gracious side of life. At 15, I was running a ranch by myself in Southern Idaho. Not one of us could harvest our crops alone. We learned to help ourselves and one another. We were friends. Also I discovered that if I approached the soil with labor and understanding, laid on irrigation carefully, planted right crops on suitable soil, the ground itself seemed eager to help. Both man and nature could be very cruel. That I knew well. Both could also be wonderful partners.
I began to feel more confident, to believe in friendship. Neighbors loaned me books, enlarged my horizon by telling me their
stories. Through them, I traveled. They expanded, educated me. Gradually I grew to test action and attitude by the yardstick of friendship. I came to believe the big question to ask myself was, “Is this friendly or unfriendly.” If it was friendly, go ahead. If unfriendly, stop.
Through friends—and these friends were sometimes horses, burros, dogs, and cats—I grew up from being an oversensitive child into faith, faith that there were plenty of decent people who wished me well, whom I could love and serve, and who might in turn love and help me. My sense of inferiority lost its hurting edge. It now became a benefit, a spur to study and effort.
And this faith in friends led to another faith: faith in God as shown in the gracious, dramatic life of Jesus. He seemed to me to approach people and problems with that same yardstick of friendliness, to show men the friendship of God. From that came an increased awareness of the value of my friends as individuals. I came to believe God wanted them and me to grow up, to be responsible. I saw in our one-room school, in myself and in others, that if bright pupils or the teacher gave us answers, we would never learn. There was no easy way. I had to work to get the answer myself.
Reared as I was in a wide land, I naturally believed in wide liberties. But there was no meaning to liberty if it were not liberty for the individual. The individual had to be free to grow up. Whatever enlarged his area of free choice seemed, to me, to give him strength, was friendly and right. Later as I traveled widely on every continent, I believed more strongly in friendship as a yardstick for action and attitude. Faith seemed increasingly valid, and the value of free individuals seemed even more precious and more necessary.
That was Lt. Col. George Stewart, an author and soldier. A native of Missouri, he now lives with his wife in Dublin, New Hampshire.