Follow Your Stars
By Steve Goodier
"Learn to say no," said Charles Spurgeon. "It will be of more use to you than
to be able to read Latin."
One educator used to say that no society can last long unless it has a quorum of
"unpurchasable people." These are people of principle who cannot be bought;
people who have learned to say no. I believe that these so-called unpurchasable
people are the truly contented and fulfilled souls around us.
In Whitney Seymour's book MAKING A DIFFERENCE (New York: William Morrow and Co.,
Inc., 1984), Arthur McArthur, General Douglas McArthur's father, told his son of
such an unpurchasable man. This man was a Union general in charge of the
occupied territory surrounding New Orleans toward the end of the American Civil
War. He was pressed by local plantation owners to permit them to haul their
cotton to the wharves in order for it to be sold for shipment to England. The
general controlled all the wagons and horses, and his orders from high command
in Washington were clear. He was not to let the cotton crop get to market.
Then one day, when Colonel Arthur MacArthur was visiting the general, two
Southern ladies were ushered into the general's office, a "grande dame" and a
beautiful young companion. The older lady came right to the point. She said that
the landowners needed the temporary use of transport facilities to move their
cotton. The North did not wish to force England into the war, she argued, and
was allowing some merchant ships to slip through the blockade. Therefore, the
Union would not be opposed to the sale of cotton for English textile mills. To
show her gratitude she handed over $250,000 in gold certificates. "And if you
need other inducements, this young lady will supply them," she added. They
departed, leaving behind a distressed general holding the beautiful young
The general immediately ordered MacArthur to dispatch this message to
Washington: "TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have just been offered two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen
to betray my trust. I am depositing the money with the Treasury of the United
States, and request immediate relief from this command. They are getting close
to my price."
Many others may have fallen for the seductive offer. And though his decision was
no doubt difficult to make, how much harder might his life have eventually
become had he chosen wrong? Saying yes to contentment and peace often begins
with saying no. For ultimately happy lives are guided by unwavering principles,
such as honesty, trust and love. Those who keep sight of their principles and
use them as a guide in all their decision-making will eventually arrive at a
place of lasting peace.
"Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands,"
says Carl Schurz. "But like the (seafarers) on the desert of waters, you choose
them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny."
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