“The Plus Sign,” New Era, Oct. 1972, 4
Many years ago while serving in the United States Infantry in the South Pacific, my outfit was making a dry run on a seemingly deserted beach in the Admiralty Islands.
When my particular unit went ashore and scattered around on patrol, we came by chance upon a small native village. I will never forget one of the most interesting sights I have ever seen. All of the natives who appeared on the scene had dyed, reddish-orange hair, and every man, woman, and child—in fact, every living creature that I could see: dogs, animals of all sorts—wore a string of large green beads to the end of which were fastened three tiny shells. We learned upon inquiry from a Baptist minister who had labored amongst these natives that these beaded ornaments were used to ward off the bad results of an “evil eye” and bring good luck to the person or animal that wore it.
In this strange little village so far removed from our own culture it was believed that bad luck, sometimes even death, would follow if a mere glance from the evil eye of an enemy fell upon a person or animal. Hence, practically all of the animals and people wore such a string of beads as I have mentioned.
At the time it recalled to my memory the days when some of us as kids carried good luck charms or a rabbit’s foot in our pockets. Or, some of us back on the farm were perhaps superstitious enough to hang horseshoes on the barn door or use a hundred and one other symbols to keep off the evil eye of failure or accident. I remember so well the common superstition of all ball players never to step across another player’s mitt while it lay on the ground.
Well, I would like to give you a new one in this article, one that is guaranteed to help you throughout your entire life, every month, every day, every hour, protecting you from the bad luck episodes of your life. It is guaranteed to protect your health, make you more likable in your association with people and more successful in your job. It will insure greater success in your daily work and bring you home to your dwelling place every evening with a sense of “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
Right now as you sit on your bed or on the couch, at a table, in the car or on a bus, or as you walk around in your home reading, picture in your mind a horizontal line crossed by a vertical line. Do you see the picture? I ask you to note that it is not a cross but a plus sign. It is the sign that protected the life of Colonel Charles Lindberg on his perilous journey across the sea after he had taken the extra pains to shut himself up in a small sedan and sit at the wheel without rest or sleep for forty-eight hours in order to study the effect upon himself of confinement, vibration, and motor lullaby; the sign that brought popularity and wealth to all the great athletes, musicians, scientists, novelists, and business executives of this great country, who after many efforts finally succeeded.
Scientists have said that the average person uses only about 1/100 of the capacity that God has given him. 1 + 1 = 2, and 5 + 5 = 10—but you will note that it takes the plus sign to do the trick. An extra hope for those of us who are discouraged, who sometimes get down in the dumps, a little added patience and determination when all seems lost may turn the advancing army of decay and start the forward march that leads to victory and abounding triumph as a person in life, as a leader, as a student, or whatever the calling.
And if there is one single person, man, woman, or young person, who is discouraged as he reads this article because of failure, seemingly on his part, to attain his ideals or some special goal, and who is just about ready to give up because of continued loss and discouragement, let him or her remember, as Elbert Hubbard has told us, that the line between failure and success is so fine that often a single extra effort is all that is needed to bring victory out of apparent defeat. History tells us that George Washington lost nine consecutive battles, but by adding the tenth, he won the war and the liberty of our country. Woolworth made a failure of his first three stores, but the plus sign pulled the trick. Henry Ford was once asked, “What would you do if you lost everything you had?” “Give me ten years,” he said, “and I would build it all back again.”
We might well ask, Why do I have so many problems? Why is life always such a struggle? I seem to have more bad days than good days. The plan of salvation as given by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was intended to build our spiritual strength and character through trials and hardships. It’s the sweet reward of adversity.
As a youngster of eighteen, a pretty young model found her dreams shattered by an automobile accident that confined her to a wheelchair with partially paralyzed legs. Because of the accident, she learned to play the piano.
Because of what the accident had done to her budding career, she learned to develop a sense of humor and to find that there is a funny viewpoint to almost any subject. And, in time, her legs regained their strength, and she became an actress gifted with a sense of humor that made her one of the outstanding comediennes of our day. You have seen her in motion pictures but particularly on television, and you have heard her on the radio, and you know that Lucille Ball was not stopped by adversity. On the contrary, it was the plus sign that made her grow in stature.
Randolph Eyre tells the story about the town of Enterprise, Alabama, which has raised a monument in honor of the boll weevil. You may know that this dreaded insect pest of the cotton country once threatened to ruin this important crop. You would naturally wonder why anyone would want to erect a monument to a pest. Then you discover that it is because the inroads of the boll weevil resulted in the planting of other crops—and that the sweet potato and the peanut, in particular, have been of vast importance to the South.
The diversification of crops made the South versatile. Everything did not hinge on cotton—and rise or fall with it. This meant a more stable and prosperous economy. In other words, an enemy did the South a good turn. The bad break became a good one. The bad luck turned to good luck. Hardships, trials, tribulations have their place in the great plan of life.
And so I say, whatever the battle in which we are engaged—and no doubt all of us have some difficulties to face—better than all the beads, seashells and buckeyes, horseshoes, or other modern charms is the armor on which is painted with our own life’s blood the plus sign, meaning with each crushed hope, another hope and stronger faith, with each fall in the road, another trial.
Someone has said: “I am never licked until I give up.” And the author of one of our sacred books tells us that to him who overcometh—it doesn’t matter where he started in life’s race—to him who overcometh shall be given the crown of life. It is the plus sign, the sign that points always forward and upward and not backward, the sign that recognizes defeat only as an opportunity for further effort in the future. By this sign we shall conquer!