Fear Proved Baseless

It was between times, neither light nor dark, and the sun that had slowly passed behind the distant hills a while ago, seemed loath to yield, even for a few short hours, his sovereign rights to those lessor luminaries that one by one glimmered in the somber sky. It was the time when details soften, when all conditions make for thought and meditation, and when, besides, imagination may if uncontrolled carry us on its visionary pinions into the realm of dream things. The writer was quietly strolling through the streets his home suburb that lies on one of the hills rising from the waters of Sydney's beautiful harbor. Few people seemed to appreciate the charm of time and place, or few perhaps had leisure to enjoy it, for scarcely a human being had appeared to disturb the solitude, until at the end of half an hour's walk, upon turning a corner, a child was seen a few yards away leaning against a garden fence, his face buried in folded arms, his tiny frame shaken with sobs.

The touch of a warm hand and a few minutes' friendly talk by one who, being a man, would seem to the baby thought too big for trouble to reach, brought some relief, and the little one began to tell in broken words the cause of so much woe. "I'm afraid of them things on the ground," he said. After finding out what the child meant, I saw that the "things on the ground," a few feet away, were a handful of dead leaves which had fallen from a near-by tree and were moving gently in the evening breeze. I took the boy by the hand and we walked along together; we looked at the dead leaves, handled them, saw them for exactly what they were, saw how foolish it was to believe that they could possibly hurt anybody, then directed our steps toward his destination half a block away. As we walked along we talked, and when I left him at the door of his parent's home we could both laugh at his trouble, and he promised that he would never again be afraid of dead leaves.

I continued my stroll, thinking of the incident and of the little fellow's distress when there was nothing to fear. It was almost impossible to think of anything with less innate power either to help or to harm than those few dried relics of the summer. As there was nothing in them that could by any means arouse fear, its cause was not in them; it was in the pictures of the child's imagination which he associated with the rustling foliage but which had no foundation in fact. Then I thought of the foolishness of grown-up folk, too, for I was myself even then afraid of some troubles which had loomed large and threatening for many weeks, and memories brought to mind the fact that most of the friends we know, most of the people we meet, are as full of fear as the little chap I had just left. Fear dominates mortal thought. Men are afraid of one another, afraid of death; with faces and with faces averted and eyes covered, they crouch trembling and terrified at a thousand things they think they foresee, things they believe are there to do them harm. Yet the great Teacher whom we profess to believe and love was constantly saying to those he was helping to know the Father, "Be not afraid."

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October 9, 1915

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