On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.”
The guard shook his head. “Padarewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago and he said he wasnt worthy to touch it.”
Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”
Tom Brokaw was wandering through Bloomingdales New York store one day, shortly after earning a promotion to the co-host spot on the Today Show. Brokaws new position was another peak in a rapidly-rising career in television journalism after plodding faithfully up the ranks, first in Omaha, then for NBC in Los Angeles and Washington. It wouldnt be lying to say he was feeling pretty good about himself. As he browsed through the store, he noticed a man watching him intensely. The man continued to stare, and finally, when the man approached him, Brokaw prepared himself to reap the first fruits of television stardom in New York.
The man pointed at him and asked, “Tom Brokaw, right?”
“Right,” said Brokaw.
“You used to do the morning news on KMTV in Omaha, right?”
“Thats right,” said Brokaw, getting ready for the warm praises destined to follow.
“I knew it the minute I spotted you,” the fellow said. Then he paused and added, “Whatever happened to you?”
John Wesley made this entry in his diary on his seventy-second birthday, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
When he was 46 years of age, Oscar Hammerstein had worked with thirty different composers. Nothing took off. There was no successful song. It was a despairing, dispiriting time for him. Finally, Oscar Hammerstein tied in with Richard Rogers. The following year they wrote the musical Oklahoma. He was a success. In fact his success was so enormous in its impact that he went out and bought a full page ad in Variety magazine. To keep himself humble, he bought this headline: “Ive done it before and I can do it again!” He then listed every single one of his failures.
A man who had a high opinion of himself stepped on a coin-operated scale that dispensed a card, giving his weight and comments about his personality. After reading the card, he handed it to his wife and said, “Here, look at this!” She took it and read aloud, “You are dynamic, a born leader, handsome, and much admired by women for your personality.” Giving it a second look, she added, “Hmmm, I see its got your weight wrong too!”
When Harry Truman was thrust into the presidency at the death of F.D.R., Sam Rayburn gave him some fatherly advice: “From here on out youre going to have lots of people around you. Theyll try to put a wall around you and cut you off from any ideas but theirs. Theyll tell you what a great man you are, Harry. But you and I both know you aint.”
One Sunday on the way home from church the pastor turned to his wife and tried to fish a complement out of her. “Well dear, what did you think of the sermon this morning?” She was very non-committal in her response, “Oh, it was fine.” The pastor wouldnt let it drop so easily. “Mrs. Smith said on the way out of church that I must be one of the great preachers of our generation.” Still no response from the wife. The pastor pushed on. “How many great preachers do you think there are in our generation?” Without a moments hesitation she fired back, “One less than you think.”
A noted brain surgeon, Dr. Bronson Ray, was taking a stroll when he saw a boy on a scooter smash headfirst into a tree. Realizing that the boy was seriously injured, the doctor told a bystander to call an ambulance. As he proceeded to administer first aid, a boy not much older than the injured one nudged through the crowd that had gathered and said to Dr. Ray, “Id better take over now, sir. Im a Boy Scout and I know first aid,”