The Little Boy Who Served His Country
There was once a little boy named Philip who knew just what his country had done for him. His mother had told him how to use his eyes to see the beautiful buildings of the city. His father had told him how a little boy could go here and there in our country, quite free, if only he did what was right. And Philip's teacher had told him how the President of the United States, and the soldiers, and the sailors, and the policemen, and the firemen, and the men who light the street lamps take care of him.
So, one day, Philip thought that he would like to do something himself to help his country. And he started out to. try.
It was a holiday. The houses were trimmed with red, white, and blue. The Stars and Stripes were flying from the schoolhouse and the town hall. Every one was out to see the parade pass by.
Philip met one of his boy friends, and hee spoke to him.
"What are you going to do to-day, Philip?" his friend asked.
"I am going to try to do something for my country," Philip replied.
"Oh, come with me, and I will show you something to do," the other boy said. "We will stand on the edge of the side-walk and cheer as loudly as we can when the parade conies by."
So the two boys stood on the edge of the sidewalk and waited for the parade. Others were waiting, too. Children ate pop corn as they waited, and threw the bags in the street. Grown people threw newspapers. The street that the sweepers had made clean for the parade was ugly and dirty again.
A bang of drums! A loud sound of trumpets!
"Shout, Philip!" said the other boy "Here comes the parade."
But Philip was too busy to shout. He ran along the edge of the sidewalk, picking up the untidy things that had been thrown in the streets. At the street corner there was a shiny tin can that the city had put there just for papers. Philip put the papers in the can. Oh, the street was clean and beautiful for the parade to pass down. But he could hear all the children cheering, and see them waving Rags. They were doing something for their country, he thought, and he was not.
Then Philip sat down on the curbing and something happened. He saw two boys having a fight. It was not a fair fight, for one boy was smaller than the other. It was not a good fight, because the larger boy was fighting to take away the smaller boy's big, blue agate.
"Stop that. You mustn't hurt that little boy. You mustn't take away his marble," Philip said.
"Don't you try to stop me. You don't dare to stop me," said the larger boy.
But Philip remembered what his father had told him about his being free in our country to do anything that is right. He ran bravely up to the larger boy and took hold of his collar.
"I do dare," he said. And the larger boy was surprised. He was ashamed, too, and he let the smaller boy go.
Then it was time to go home and Philip was sorry. He felt that there was not anything that a little boy could do to serve his country. Perhaps he looked sorrowful and that was why the old soldier spoke to him.
"Walk with me, little man," he said, "and tell me what you have been doing to-day."
Philip looked up at the old soldier. He was a very old man, and he walked with a cane. His blue coat was worn and faded. Its brass buttons did not shine any longer. Philip stepped closer. "Lean on me," he said. So the old soldier leaned on Philip's shoulder; and it was easier for him to walk.
Then, Philip remembered what the old soldier had asked him.
"I have not been doing very much," Philip said. " I have been picking up papers, and I stopped a fight. But I meant to do something for my country to-day."
The old soldier smiled down into the little boy's eyes. "Why, you have done a great deal for your country," he said. "You have helped to keep it clean, and you have helped to keep it peaceful. And now you are helping one of your country's old soldiers to walk. That is what our country needs. It needs cleanness, and peace, and help for its helpless."
"Bravo, little citizen " said the old soldier. That made Philip very happy indeed.