This I Believe

Spry, Constance

  • Constance Spry describes how she adopted her father's love of truth, justice, beauty, and poetry, and explains her father's practice of listening to, rather than judging, the beliefs and opinions of others.
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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. Constance Spry was brought up and educated in Ireland for welfare work. She did welfare work in the Dublin slums, in a World War I munitions factory, and in London's squalid East End. In addition to her social service, she has become a cooking expert and an internationally successful florist. This is what Constance Spry believes.
The child is father of the man, and the pattern accepted in early days lasts a long time, although it may become hidden
and confused with the passing of the years. The pattern for us was set by my father, and it is a good pattern for me. My father loved life. He had a fine sense of humor and set for himself a high standard of behavior. The things that he said to us were accepted by us with a childlike belief, and I think in it, truly, we did our best to follow his ways.
He never broke his word, so we felt very sure of him. He never judged hastily. It puzzled us at first, when he said, “There but for the grace of God go I,” until he made us understand what pressure of circumstance and temptation might do, and how harsh could be the punishment of foolishness or stupidity. He was a singularly unjealous man. He regarded jealousy as a scourge, something to be conquered in all its forms—personal, political, or class.
Another deep impression he made was how dangerous it is to judge hastily, how important to consider more than one point of view. Should one of us, youthfully uninformed, give a biased, parrot-like opinion about, for instance, a strike among a group of workers or a rebellious rising in the politically stormy country in which we then lived, he would ask us quite reasonably, and as though trying to find out our real ideas, how much we knew of the cause of the grievance or of how the men and women in question lived and worked. And this, mind you, was no reflection on his particular color or creed. It was his hatred of injustice.
Today, lots of the things he said so simply and with natural piety will sound outdated, maybe priggish. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” for instance. “From compromise and things half done, keep me with stern and stubborn pride.” Or two lines of a prayer he taught us: “Teach me to live that I may dread the grave as little as my bed,” a teaching too difficult for us but which, nevertheless, had its effect.
And well I remember in later life the comfort he offered to one of us—working hard in a direction to his liking but unable to conform quite to all his beliefs—“Never mind, darling, don’t worry about these things, and remember that to work is to pray.”
To this day, too, I find a helpful criterion, “How will you think about this in the mid-hour of night?”
These were a simple man’s beliefs. I accepted them then and I do now. They have lasted, unchanged, through the years. But beyond and around all these things, this man made us consider things: the beauty of growing flowers and trees, of snow crystals; the mystery of the stars; the magic of poetry; the wonders of science. These he revered and all were, for him, part of a simple faith for which he gave thanks, and from which he spun for us a golden thread.
There the creed of Constance Spry. She is in charge of the flower arrangements for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.