The Essay Contest

The Essay Contest

There was to be a contest at the school which Milton attended. Can you guess what kind of a contest it was? No, it was not a football game, a baseball game, or a race. Yes, it was an essay contest. The one who wrote the best essay on George Wash­ington, the first President of the United States was to receive a prize. Milton made up his mind to get the first prize. So he read and read about Washington. Every night he read more and more. The desk in his room was stacked with books and magazines. On the wall over the desk, where he could look directly at it, was a picture of Washington. The more he read about him and looked at his picture, the more Washington became his hero.

In a few days the essays had to be in, and Milton's was far from completed. He worked feverishly and was much confused. His classmate Ruth boasted that her essay was finished. Milton knew that Ruth was bright and quick, and no doubt had written a good essay. "I know what I will do," said Milton to himself, "I will take Ruth's essay when she is not looking, take it home with me, steal some of her good ideas, and return it tomorrow, and she and no one else will know the difference." This seemed to be the easy way out. Milton was happy with his new idea. He decided to work no more that night. He gathered up his papers. Then, suddenly, he felt that someone was watching him, and knew of his plan to steal Ruth's ideas. He looked up and from the picture Washington's eyes were upon him. Milton stood in silence before the Picture and in shame lowered his eyes b the floor.

He heard a voice. Could it be the voice of Washington? This voice said to him, "No, no, Milton, I would, not do that if I were you. Do not steal Ruth's ideas. Always be honest. It is better to lose the contest than to win it by dishonesty. I have always tried to be honest and truthful, and I can tell you that this is the best way. No, no, Milton, give up your idea of winning the contest that way. An essay about me is not worth the price of dishonesty."

"But I must not lose the contest," answered Milton. "I told father and mother that I would win, and my uncle promised to give me five dollars if I won the
first prize

"Listen, Milton," said the voice from the picture, "in the Revolutionary War I too lost battles. Do not be afraid to lose. Be a good loser. A good loser is better than a bad winner."

"But I am afraid of what others will say if I lose," replied Milton.

"Milton, do not be afraid," answered the voice. "Always be brave. In battle is no time to be a coward. You are having a battle with yourself now. Don't let the coward in you win. Twice when I was on the field of battle the horse was shot from under me, and four times bullets tore through my clothes. In battle is no time to be afraid."

Milton raising his eyes until they were squarely fixed on those of Washington in the picture, said, "Well, what would you do if you were in my place?"

"Milton," said the voice from the picture, "I always found one thing very helpful when I was in trouble as you are now. Sometimes it seemed as if we would never win the Revolutionary War. What a long, cold winter we spent at Valley Forge. We were almost frozen and half starved. Sometimes I did not know what to do, just like you now. Then at times I would walk into the woods, and I would kneel in the snow, and ask God to help me and show me what I should do next. I always found this a great help. Why don't you do that, Milton? And if you do that tonight before you go to sleep I know that you will not care to steal Ruth's ideas tomorrow. And remember this, Milton, it is not so important that you win; what is more important is that you have tried to win in a way of which you do not have to be ashamed."

Milton looked long at the picture and studied every feature. He no longer was confused. He would do what the voice of Washington had told him. Perhaps he would get the first prize, and perhaps he would not. That no longer was so important to Milton. To be like Washington and other people like him became his ideal.

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