Some young girls on their way to Sunday-school cast many humorous glances and subdued tittering toward one of their own age who was walking quietly along beside a venerable man, one who had helped “build up the country.” It was observed by the pair, but they cared little for it, only the thoughtless girls did themselves an injustice. It was inappropriate conduct on any day, but upon the Lord’s Day, it seemed even more unbecoming. In former times church-going persons went to their worship reverently, and, reaching the house of God, entered with the utmost respect. When seated, they did not twist around in their seats to gaze at some new-comer; perfect attention was given to the sermon, and it was the theme at home in the evening.
Clothing, however rich or poor, need not be scanned or criticized; when you and I came upon this earth, we were treated equally in that respect. But to return to the subject. The gray-haired man was a Sunday school teacher, and had taken the pains to invite some new residents to attend meetings and Sunday-school, and, seeing the timidity of the young lady, invited her to walk with him. This was true kindness and courtesy on his part. I know he was once taken a little by surprise when a young person, meeting him bowed and quietly said, “Good-afternoon.” Said he in relating the incident, “I thought a good deal of that bit of politeness, for young folks, don’t notice me on the street, they pass right along.” If in meeting a person upon the street, you slightly bow or lift the hat, it does not mean an invitation to form an acquaintance. It always looks well for one who is well dressed to render a slight inclination of the head if meeting another less favored of fortune. The poor and the laboring classes already feel the comparison between their and your circumstances keenly enough without any display of conscious superiority or ill-bred pride.
I know of a tired little boy who, coming from his long day’s work, was mortified to meet a nicely-dressed young lady, but said he that night at home, “She spoke just as politely to me as if I had been Brother Brigham, and she’s the nicest and best woman in the world, and I’m going to be as near like her as I can.” Some years later he was her escort through a wild portion of the country, and he seemed to take delight in bestowing every attention to her and her little children. If she had turned up her nose or giggled at him, do you suppose he could have felt as well toward her?
The lounger, the vagabond and the wicked are easily recognized and have no claim to our notice, but among strangers, many we meet are our equals and some of our superiors. Let me relate an incident which occurred perhaps twelve years since, in Salt Lake City, as told to me by the young man, who is now a very prominent and beloved gentleman, whom you all know.
“I was up on the sidewalk and approaching the crossing. I was in great haste, and as I neared the plank an aged man was in advance of me. I hastily took a few long steps, intending to get there ahead of him. Another step arid I would have accomplished it, but, as I brushed close to him, he turned, saw my eagerness, and politely lifted his hat, stepping aside for me to pass. My momentum was such that I could not stop before I had one foot on the plank, but there I paused, transfixed with shame, a very tableau of precipitate haste and rudeness! We gazed in each other’s eyes until he kindly extended his hand in acknowledgment of my distressed apologies, which I knew by his gracious smile and adieu he understood. I could not speak his language, but I learned then and there a lesson from him that I have never forgotten.”