'Some day you will find what your special gift is and when you do, you will make your parents very proud of you'
One of the worst evils of today is the exaggerated importance given to so-called intelligence tests. Many other qualities besides agility in answering trick questions go into the making of human personality. A man can fail all the tests and make a wonderful life. Let me tell you what happened to a young Canadian boy.
Call him Johnnie Martin. He was the son of a carpenter, and his mother worked as a housekeeper. They lived frugal lives, saving their money for the day when they could send their son to college. Johnnie had reached the second year in high school when the blow fell. A psychologist attached to the school called the young man, just reached sixteen, into his private office and this is what he said.
'Johnnie, I've been studying your marks and I've gone over your various tests in motor and sensory impressions - your physical examination. I've made a very careful study of you and your achievements.'
'I've been trying hard,' put in Johnnie.
'That's just the trouble.' said the psychologist.
'You have worked very hard indeed - but it has not helped. You just don't seem able to get ahead in your studies. You're just not cut out for it, and for you to remain in high school would, in my opinion, be a waste of time.'
The boy buried his face in his hands.
'This will be hard on my mother and father,' he said. 'Their one idea is for me to be a college man.'
The psychologist laid his hand on the boy's shoulder. 'People have different kinds of talents, Johnnie,' he said.'
'There are painters who were never able to learn the multiplication table, and engineers who can't sing on key. But every one of us has something special - and you are no exception. Some day you will find what your special gift is and when you do, you will make your parents very proud of you.'
Johnnie never went back to school. Jobs were scarce in town, but he managed to keep busy mowing the lawns of the householders and puttering in their flower-beds. And then a curious thing happened. Before long his customers began to notice that Johnnie had what they called a 'green thumb'. The plants he tended grew and blossomed, and the rose trees blossomed. He fell into the habit of making suggestions for re-arranging the tiny front-yard landscapes. He had an eye for colour and could make surprising combinations that pleased the eye.
One day while he was down town he happened to notice a stretch of unused land behind the city hall. Chance or fate or whatever you may like to call it brought one of the town's alderman round the corner just at that moment. Impetuously the boy said, 'I can make a garden out of this dump, if you'll let me.'
'The town's got no money for frills,' said the alderman.
'I don't want any money for it,' said the boy - 'I just want to do it.'
The alderman, being a politician, was astounded to find anyone who did not want money, under any and all circumstances. He took Johnnie into an office, and when the young man came out he had the authority to clean up the public eyesore. That very afternoon he borrowed extra tools and seeds and soil. Someone gave him a few young trees to plant. When others heard of it they offered rose-bushes and even a hedge. Then the town's leading manufacturer heard of it, and volunteered to supply some benches.
Before long the dreary old dump had become a little park. There were grassy lawns and little curving walks and restful seats and little house for birds. All the towns people were talking about what a lovely improvement the young man had made.
But it was also a kind of show window for Johnnie. People saw the result of his skill and knew him for a natural landscape gardener.
That was twenty five years ago. Today Johnnie is the head of a prosperous business in landscape gardening. His customers extend into neighbouring provinces.
Johnnie still cannot speak French or translate Latin, trigonometry is unknown to him. But colour and light and lovely prospects are his bread and butter. His aging parents are proud of Johnnie, for he is not only a success - a man of affairs and a member of the best clubs in town - he has also made his part of the world a lovelier place to live in. Where ever he and his men go, they spread beauty before the eyes of people.
Source - Modern Parables by Fulton Oursler. First published in 1951
This story appeared in InspirEmail No 52 - January 31, 2005