"LIFE is a long lesson in humility." I was reminded of this statement by James M. Barrie after reading the anecdote below:

A long flight of stairs is the last stage of a climb up a mountain in China. For more than a thousand years, a steady of pilgrims has come and gone until the steps are worn and dangerous. Numbers of pilgrims have fallen and hurt themselves.

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The people of the neighborhood have asked the monks to rebuild the steps, fearing that they might lose their profitable business of housing the pilgrims. But the abbot of the monastery refused.

"It is regrettable," he said, "that some pilgrims have suffered injury or death. But this could be because they were holding their heads too high. But they are only a few of the millions who have learned that in life, one must walk carefully, holding the head high, but not so high that pitfalls cannot be seen, and so low as to lose sight of the sky."

The beginning of greatness is to be little, the increase of greatness is to be less, and the perfection of greatness is to be nothing. As William Temple puts it, "Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all."

But more often than not, people put themselves before others. "I am no more humble than my talents require," Oscar Levant once said. And Ted Turner commented, "If I only had a little humility, I'd be perfect."

In an article which appeared in "The Observer," Edith Sitwell was quoted as saying, "I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty. But I am too busy thinking about myself." And oftentimes, that's what most people do.

A millionaire held a big banquet to which he had invited many important people in the city. Most of the guests arrived in their expensive cars. Then, the rain began to pour down and collected into a large puddle of water right in front of the main entrance to the millionaire's house.

Along came a car and stopped right in front of the water. An elegantly dressed old man tried to get out, but slipped and fell headlong into the sea of mud. As he lifted himself up, he saw that he was a mess - and was in no condition to go into the banquet hall.

Several of the guests made fun of the unfortunate man. But a servant who saw what had happened ran off to tell the millionaire about it. He came running out just in time to keep the muddied guest from going back home. He tried to coax the man to stay despite his appearance. But the guest was afraid of the stares and remarks of the other visitors, and wanted to disappear quickly.

So, the well-dressed millionaire then let himself fall face-first into the very same puddle of water. He, too, was muddied from head to foot. Then he took his guest by the arm and the two of them together, muddy as they were, marched into the banquet hall -- and no one dared to say a word.

Humble thyself, the Bible states. Abraham Lincoln was a case in point. "Nobody has ever expected me to be president," he once said. "In my poor, lean lank face nobody has ever seen that any cabbages were sprouting." Albert Einstein was another. "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong," he admitted.

There was a man who wanted to get rid of his shadow. But no matter what he did or tried, the shadow just would not go away. He rolled on the floor, he dived into the water. But to no avail; his shadow stayed alongside him.

A wise man who heard of the problem, remarked, "That's no worry. It's the simple thing in the world." The man asked, "How so?"

"Well," the wise man replied, "all you have to do is to stand in the shadow of a tree and your shadow will disappear."

"It is always the secure who are humble," said Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

Are you rich and famous? Do you belong to those who consider themselves high and might? Don't boast yourself. "Do you wish people to think well of you?" Blaise Pascal asked. "Don't speak well of yourself." And American president Abraham Lincoln reminded, "What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."

A stooped old man and a lively young man happened to meet one day. The young man bragged to the old timer, "Why don't you walk straight, like me? That's no way to grow old. It's all a matter of habit, at least, that's what I'm told."

The old man gave him a look of pity and said, "My dear young friend, have you ever examined a grain field and noticed which heads are bent and which ones stand up straight? If you take a good look as harvest time draws near, you will notice that the heads which are empty are standing tall and high. But the heads that make a good harvest are the ones that are filled and bending low."

The young man heard those words and passed by, slowly bowing his head. No doubt, he pondered many a day on what the old man had said.

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