Soft Words Turn Away Wrath
In a little Vermont town the selectmen one day put up a strange-looking sign. It said:
"By order of the Selectmen, cows grazing by the roadside or riding bicycles on the sidewalk is hereby forbidden."
Of course the selectmen never meant that cows were not to be allowed to ride bicycles on the sidewalk. They were thinking only of boys and girls, and that is quite a different thing.
Still, it is a temptation to boys and girls to ride their bicycles on a smooth sidewalk, and in spite of rules, they sometimes do.
In fact, one day as I sat by my window in that little Vermont town, I saw a boy on a new bicycle come riding down the sidewalk so swiftly that he bumped right into a man and almost knocked him down. Now the man became terribly angry and he shouted out in rage. He was angry because he had been bumped and smeared with dust, and also because he knew that the boy was breaking the law.
With a quick firm jerk, the angry man seized the handle bars of the bicycle, and let his temper fly at the boy. "I'll have you arrested!" he shouted. "The judge will fix you! I'll teach you, young fellow, not to ride bicycles on the sidewalk and break the law!"
Of course the boy was in the wrong, and he should have admitted it at once. But like most boys he lost his temper, too, and became very, very angry. "Oh, no, you won't!" he shouted right back. "You take your hands off my bicycle!"
Then the man grew even more angry than before. With a new threat in his angry voice, he yanked the bicycle out of the boy's grip and cried, "I'll see that this bicycle is taken away from you, I will! I'll fix it so that you'll lose your bicycle. You'll never ride this again!"
That threat of losing his beautiful new bicycle brought the boy to his senses. He loved his bicycle, for he had worked hard to earn the money to buy it, and he had had to save up his money for a long, long time.
The boy jumped right down off his high horse of temper and sauciness. Then he said in a very mild and manly voice, "Say, mister, I'm very sorry. You're right and I am wrong."
The angry man was quite surprised to hear the boy talk like that. "Didn't you know that you were breaking the law?" he said in notquite-so-angry a voice.
"Yes," admitted the boy, "but I just forgot. I really didn't mean to disobey, and I'm very sorry I hit you, sir."
The man let go one hand from the boy's bicycle. "Well, are you going to stop this riding on the sidewalk?" he demanded in a stillless-angry voice.
"Yes, sir, and I promise you that I'll be very careful and not do it ever again."
The man let go his other hand off the bicycle. This time he put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Now you're talking," the man said in a voice-that-was-not-angry-at-all. "Why, I wouldn't think of taking a new bicycle away from a fine lad like you, and of course I wouldn't think of taking you up before the judge either. I just forgot myself for a moment and lost my temper. Now let's shake hands like good friends, and mind you keep off the sidewalk after this."
The man went sauntering down the street, brushing the dust from his clothes, and the boy jumped merrily on his new bike and was gone in a flash. The tempest was over.
Perhaps the man had suddenly remembered how it was when he was a boy, or perhaps both the man and boy had remembered a Bible verse they had learned in Sunday church school, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."