Thought Bricks 17: The Contented Mind
In this lesson Bernard offers Practical Ideas for a Life in the Country (some are a bit dated – but you get the gist), he shares Ellen’s Story as she went from being reserved and isolated to being happily married, and he also shares the story of The African Schoolmaster, a student of the course who had his faith in God restored.
LESSON SEVENTEEN: THE CONTENTED MIND
My dear Student,
As Health of a lasting nature rests very much on the possession of a contented mind, to realise the “Dream of a country life” is, as you will agree, a great asset! So let us continue to discuss ways of realising this Dream which lies in the heart of so many people today.
Practical Ideas for a Life in the Country
One way is to become a Caretaker of a country Chapel. I have several times seen advertisements of this nature. These Chapels are almost always in isolated districts and have very small congregations. They cannot afford to have a resident minister, but rely on visiting preachers. But someone is needed to live close to the Chapel and to take care of it and keep it clean; also prepare it for Sunday services. A cottage and garden is provided and, sometimes, a small salary. If this idea appeals to you, watch the weekly country papers for advertisements.
Another way is to become a housekeeper to a farmer. It is astonishing to me, the number of farmers who seem to need housekeepers. The work is interesting and varied as it usually means looking after the poultry as well as the house, but it is a free life. The farmer does not want a social life as a rule, but just an ordered house to come home to, with substantial meals. Most farmers cannot afford to pay a big wage, but are willing to let the housekeeper do more or less what she likes provided his simple needs are met. Then there is the job of a farm-worker, with accommodation in the farmhouse or an adjoining building. And if you can drive a tractor or do other farm work, there are many jobs that offer vacant cottages with gardens to the workers. These jobs usually change quarterly – and the Autumn seems a popular time.
Then there is the possibility of a village shop. Many villages are very short of shops and it is possible to buy or rent a shop, or even a cottage which can be turned into one. I know of one thriving village store that was originally a hall. Of course, before deciding on the type of shop, it would be necessary to go to the chosen village and find out what sort of trade it needs.
Have you ever thought of the value of clubs in the country? I mean clothing and furniture and household clubs, where the members pay so much a week and their goods are delivered after the first payment. The club organiser goes round to each member once a week to collect his or her payment. Such clubs – in fact, all kinds of buying-by-post are popular in the country because not everyone wants to travel many miles to the nearest town very often, yet all kinds of things are wanted for the home. So anyone who could live among them and run a club, calling to receive the payments (and perhaps stop for a chat) would be welcome in many villages.
Then there is the “shopping by car” idea. I know of a village shop which closes every Friday in order to go into a big town thirty miles away and shop for the villagers. People hand in their lists of anything they want which the village shop does not stock; the shop people get a trade discount and charge the usual price and it pays them. This idea could be extended by anyone with a car because a different village could he shopped for each day of the week.
Anyone who hopes to live in the country in say, a few years time, would do well to attend a night-school. You see, there are certain people who are very scarce in the country and if you can he one of these, you will never want for a way of earning a living. Carpentry, painting and decorating is the thing – and learning to be a “handyman”. There are endless jobs in the country waiting, like this. When a cottager wants something done, like a window-frame repaired, new glass put in, painting or papering done, or the inevitable roof repaired where it is beginning to leak, he has either to try to do the best he can alone, or go into the town and get a firm to come out and give an estimate – then wait until they can send someone out in a van to do the job. See, then, what a chance there is for a someone who lives in the district.
Another country need is for dressmakers. Country women cannot as easily go for a tour of the shops as townspeople can, and they seem always glad to find anyone who will come to their homes, measure them, suggest styles (even, perhaps, buy the materials) call again and fit them, and finally deliver the finished garments. Hairdressers, too, are wanted in the country. So, whether you are man or woman, put in some time at night-school if you are really serious about your desire to live in the country.
Another way in which a part-time income can be earned, is by doing a small post-round. There is scope for both men and women here. Country districts usually have only one post a day and the postwoman is often a young married woman whose small round takes her about three hours each morning.
Have you ever thought of a mobile coffee-stall or snack-bar, a mobile cinema or library? Or a mobile shop? An “ironmongery shop” calls round here regularly. It is fitted up exactly like an ordinary shop and the top of the van is lit by skylights.
Have you, too, ever thought of living in a caravan, on a recognised caravan site, and having one or two other caravans to let to summer visitors? I have tried this and it pays. It is a happy, simple life, and you can choose a site either in the country or by the sea-or both, as I did. The important thing is to choose a proprietary caravan (that is, one of a well-known make that is easily recognisable). Otherwise you may have difficulty in getting accepted on a site.
Caravans for letting have to be equipped with everything except sheets and pillowcases. Four-berth vans are the most popular. Even when you have paid for the ground-rent, the gas, the upkeep and re-painting (which is necessary more often than with a house) you will still make a reasonable profit, and four people who share the weekly rent still have an inexpensive holiday.
Now, have I given you something to think and plan about? Even if you cannot think of realising your dream yet awhile – having to wait and work for a pension – it makes life interesting, doesn’t it? And if you have imagined that a country life was beyond you, up to now, perhaps the reading of these pages will set alight your adventuring spirit and start you too, off on the realisation of “The Dream “.
I began this Lesson by speaking of the benefits of having a contented mind. Now I shall tell you the story, in letter-form, of a Student who began the Course with a timid, anxious mind and ended with a confident and happy one. Our attitude of mind, as I have said before, influences our health a lot, so if you want to enjoy really sound, “bouncing” health – watch what takes place in your thoughts and see they form happy pictures of the things you want to happen. The story of this Student was told in a former copy of B.W.N. and I reproduce it here.
Now here’s an interesting letter. It comes from a Student named Ellen who enrolled for “Thought Bricks” in August, 1952. I was so pleased to hear from her again that I looked up two previous letters of hers which appeared in B.W.N. I don’t think I kept the originals, but fortunately I keep one copy of each B.W.N. published, for reference, and so am able to give you her two previous letters plus the comments I made at the time. Here they are then. The first appeared in B.W.N. of 28th August, 1952.
She wrote: ” After one week of doing the exercises of the first Lesson I can truthfully say it has been the most happy and peaceful week I have spent in the last three years. Trying to make friends has been, to me, very hard work, because I am very reserved, but this week people have gone out of their way to be friendly and helpful. I have spoken to people in a very confident way that I could not have done a week ago.”
My comment was: Have you ever thought, Ellen, what “reserved” means? You know how you go into a cafe sometimes, or into a theatre and see a notice on a chair? It says: “Reserved “. What does this mean? It means, politely, “Keep off”. So if you have been reserved, that is what you have been saying unconsciously to those you have met. “I’m reserved; I’m not for you, so keep off.” Oh, you haven’t meant it that way, I know. But don’t you see that that is how others read it? They too, have their “feelings”, however confident they may appear, and so they have hesitated to approach or to be too friendly in case they were rebuffed. Now suppose somebody rings up and cancels that booking at the cafe or theatre. They take off the “reserved” notice. What does that mean? It means: “Do come – you are welcome.” So that is what I want you to do, Ellen. Take that “reserved notice” right off and throw it out of your kitchen window. Then take your shopping basket and go forth into the world – and watch the difference.
The second letter was written when Ellen had finished the last Lesson. She wrote: “Well, Bernard, we have come to the end of the Lessons and I have been taking stock of what has happened. I must say I am amazed at myself. When I started these Lessons I was lonely, unsure of myself, had no confidence, afraid of the future – but now I am happy, confident, have many new friends, joining in the parties and dancing this Christmas and New Year; have been to strange places and houses and felt at home. And the best of all, I have found a new male companion who wants to become something else, and we go dancing together every week. I think I have found a new and satisfying love. I have made people happy by helping them, given them gifts of money, and believe me, it has given me great pleasure to do all this.”
“I feel that God has given me this love in return for what I have done for others. I could never find words to thank you enough for what your Lessons have done for me because you have made a new person and a new world for me. I shall go through the Lessons again and again. I bless you for the wonderful insight you have given me. The great thought came to pass at Christmas. I made this with the Heart Chart. I asked God not to let me be sad and lonely at Christmas time. I asked for happiness, friends and a special friend, and I received them all to overflowing. It must show on my face because people say to me: ‘I have never seen you look so well and happy, and you look younger every day’. I am bubbling over inside with happiness. With best wishes for you and your work and for all those who are in contact with you.”
My comment was:- If you can remember the new little Student who said how lonely and reserved she was, Family, you will specially rejoice with me at this letter. Do you remember I suggested that Ellen should “throw her Reserved Notice out of the window” and see the difference it made in her life? Now, instead of wordlessly giving the signal: “Keep off – I’m reserved “, she’s giving “Welcome”-and what a difference it has made. Now here is her latest letter.
Well and happy.” By Ellen M.
“I was going through my drawers and I came upon your papers for the Weekly Link Letters Course so I decided to write to you and have them sent every week. I am one of you old Students known to you as Mrs. E. T. I have been married since I last wrote to you. I am keeping well and happy and I have got a very good husband. I hope to hear from you soon and all the family and pets.”
That’s a happy ending, isn’t it? I love to receive letters like this. I know you will all be interested in this true “life story”.
The African Schoolmaster
While we are on the subject of a healthy attitude of mind, here is an article reprinted from a former B.W.N. about a semi-invalid, full of doubts and fears, who enrolled for the Course a few years ago. He is (at the time of writing this) a schoolmaster in Africa. When he enrolled he did not even believe in God. Now he loves God. Then he was, as he called it, “a wreck”. Now he is better than he has been for years. Then he was discouraged and depressed. Now he is full of enthusiasm and joy. He said he is grateful for his time of trial. I am, too. For, like a wise man, he has let Life teach him-and how much stronger and more stable he is for the experience I think his story will be an inspiration to you all.
First of all, he went through a time of doubt. He doubted the existence of God. Then he began to doubt me Just as he was recovering from this and had decided to believe and trust again, a parcel arrived containing books which I was sending him as a gift. Now I have an Air Mail letter from him in which he writes:-
“I received your gift. I tried to write to you there and then, but I couldn’t. I could only pray for you. I was so overwhelmed! Re the troubles and scarcity of money, in my resentment I overlooked a great thing – the manifestation of the love of God in my life. My Mother arrived the same day with money enough to give me.”
“A week after, a long-outstanding back pay of arrived. The back-pay was in itself the result of thought-building. Now my pay has been increased. Again, I have been offered quarters in the School at and incredibly low rent. And so Abundance is flowing into me yet! To say: ‘Thank you’ is not enough. But I don’t know what to say more.”
“Maybe I should say I love you – or, rather, I love God? You say you ‘have had the privilege of helping me’! Do you know, I am grateful for the trial. It has given me the ‘New Birth’. I feel so strong and powerful in Spirit. How can I ever thank you enough for the Lessons? You have transported me back to my infant days when I first attended school. The future was all before me then. So it is now. It is an answer to my deepest longings and most passionate prayers. I am suspending all other studies until I have mastered the whole Course. May I be found worthy to go through. I am young, but I don’t mind even if it will take my whole life! I am of the adventurous type and I am set on my toes by the thrill and excitement of this spiritual expedition.”