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“Some people say we shouldn’t give alms to the poor, Shirley.”

“They are great fools for their pains. For those who are not hungry, it is easy to palaver about the degradation of charity, and so on; but they forget the brevity of life, as well as its bitterness. We have none of us long to live: let us help each other through seasons of want and woe, as well as we can, without heeding in the least the scruples of vain philosophy.”

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Shirley, ch. 14 [Lina and Shirley] (1849)
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Added on 8-Apr-22 | Last updated 8-Apr-22
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Alas! in naught may one trust the gods against their will!

[Heu nihil invitis fas quemquam fidere divis!]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 2, l. 402 (2.402) [Aeneas] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fairclough (1916)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

But, ah! what use of valour can be made,
When heav'n's propitious pow'rs refuse their aid!
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Alas! it is right for one to trust to nothing when the gods are adverse.
[tr. Anthon (1843)]

Alas! on nothing ought man to presume, while the gods are against him!
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Alas! a mortal may not lean
On Heaven, when Heaven averts its mien.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Alas, one ought
To trust in nothing, when the gods oppose.
[tr. Cranch (1872), ll. 549-550]

Alas that none may trust at all to estranged gods!
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Alas! what skills it man to trust in Gods compelled to good?
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Ah! vain to boast, if Heaven refuse to aid!
[tr. Taylor (1907)]

But woe is me! If gods their help withhold,
't is impious to be brave.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Alas! it is not well for anyone to be confident when the gods are adverse.
[Source (1922)]

It is not for men to trust unwilling gods.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Ah, well, there's no trusting the gods for anything, once they're against you!
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

But oh, it is not right for anyone
to trust reluctant gods!
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), ll. 540-541]

When gods are contrary
They stand by no one.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), ll. 532-533]

But no man can trust in gods who are opposed to him.
[tr. West (1990)]

Never rely on the gods for anything
Against their will.
[tr. Lombardo (2005), ll. 466-467]

But, oh
how wrong to rely on gods dead set against you!
[tr. Fagles (2006), ll. 501-502]

How wrong it is to trust the gods against their will!
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 6-Apr-22 | Last updated 6-Apr-22
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I noted that it is sometimes hard to tell whether you are being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
Learning to Walk in the Dark, ch. 3 (2014)
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Added on 10-Dec-21 | Last updated 10-Dec-21
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When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.

[Que el aviso haga antes viso de recuerdo de lo que olvidava que de luz de lo que no alcanzó.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 7 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
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Alternate translation: Princes will allow a man to help them, but not surpass them, and will have any advice tendered them appear like a recollection of something they have forgotten rather than as a guide to something they cannot find. [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
Added on 8-Nov-21 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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I think, for what my young opinion’s worth,
That good as it is to have infallible wisdom,
Since this is rarely found, the next best thing
Is to be willing to listen to wise advice.

[γνώμη γὰρ εἴ τις κἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ νεωτέρου
πρόσεστι, φήμ᾽ ἔγωγε πρεσβεύειν πολὺ
φῦναι τὸν ἄνδρα πάντ᾽ ἐπιστήμης πλέων:
εἰ δ᾽ οὖν, φιλεῖ γὰρ τοῦτο μὴ ταύτῃ ῥέπειν,
καὶ τῶν λεγόντων εὖ καλὸν τὸ μανθάνειν.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 719ff [Haemon] (441 BC) [tr. Watling (1947)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

For, if grounded maxims
May find their utterance e'en in me your son,
I dare be bold to say 'tis better far
That understanding should be born in man:
But if this may not be: -- and, to say sooth,
The common scale inclines not thus, -- 'tis well
To learn from any one who reasons soundly.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

For, if one young in years may claim some sense,
I'll say 'tis best of all to be endowed
With absolute wisdom; but, if that's denied,
(And nature takes not readily that ply)
Next wise is he who lists to sage advice.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

If any judgement hath informed my youth,
I grant it noblest to be always wise,
But, -- for omniscience is denied to man --
Tis good to hearken to admonishment.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

For if even from me, a younger man, a worthy thought may be supplied, by far the best thing, I believe, would be for men to be all-wise by nature. Otherwise -- since most often it does not turn out that way -- it is good to learn in addition from those who advise you well.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

For if I, a younger man, may offer my thought, it were far best, I ween, that men should be all-wise by nature; but, otherwise -- and oft the scale inclines not so -- 'tis good also to learn from those who speak aright.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

I know I am young; but please let me say this: The ideal condition
Would be, I admit, that men should be right by instinct;
But since we are all too likely to go astray,
The reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 578ff]

Young as I am, if I may give advice,
I'd say it would be best if men were born
perfect in wisdom, but failing this
(which often fails) it can be no dishonor
to learn from others when they speak good sense.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

If one who is still young can speak with sense,
Then I would say that he does best who has
Most understanding; second best, the man
Who profits from the wisdom of another.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

I'm young, I know, but let me offer this:
it would be best by far, I admit,
if a man were born infallible, right by nature.
If not -- and things don't often go that way --
it's best to learn from those with good advice.
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 805ff]

For if an opinion comes up from me, a younger person,
I say it is by far best that a man be born filled with
wisdom. If he is not, for the scale does not usually so incline,
to learn from those speaking competently is a noble thing.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

I’m younger, I know but I still might be able to judge what’s right and I say that it’s a good thing for a man to be born with all possible wisdom but still -- because it’s not such a common thing -- to be able to learn from others.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

For if I, as a younger man, may state
my views, I’d say it would be for the best
if men by nature understood all things --
if not, and that is usually the case,
when men speak well, it good to learn from them.
[tr. Johnston (2005)]

Even though I'm young, a good idea might come from me: It would be best by far that man be born full of all the knowledge there is, but, if it usually happens not to turn out that way, to learn from those who speak well is a good substitute.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

Added on 28-Jan-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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I, too, could be successful, if I had money, talent, luck, charm, confidence, and plenty of help.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #3414
Added on 18-Dec-20 | Last updated 18-Dec-20
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DEXTER: You know, before I got married, Emily used to come by sometimes and help me clean out my apartment. Well, I asked her, “How come you’re so eager to help clean up my place when your place is just as bad?” She said, “Because cleaning up your place helps me to forget what a mess I’ve made of mine, and — when I sweep my floor, all I’ve done is sweep my floor. But, when I help you clean up your place, I am helping you.”

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×20 “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” (14 Oct 1996)
Added on 27-Aug-20 | Last updated 27-Aug-20
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For when the water is up to your neck you must be truly stubborn not to cry for help.

[Che chi ne l’acqua sta fin’alla gola
Ben’e ostinato se merce non grida.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 1, st. 50, l. 353 (1532) [tr. Waldman]

Alt. trans.:
  • "For who, when circling waters round him spread / And menace present death, impores not aid?" [tr. Hoole (1807)]
  • "For the poor drowning caitiff, who, chin-deep, / Implores not help, is obstinate indeed." [tr. Rose (1831)]
  • "The drowning man who waits to be exhorted / To cry for help must be a man of pride!" [tr. Reynolds (2006)]
Added on 16-Mar-20 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
Blood Meridian, ch. 5 (1985)
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Added on 22-Jan-20 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
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Who kindly sets a wand’rer on his way
Does e’en as if he lit another’s lamp by his:
No less shines his, when he his friend’s hath lit.

[Homó, qui erranti cómiter monstrát viam,
Quasi lúmen de suo lúmine accendát, facit.
Nihiló minus ipsi lúcet, cum illi accénderit.]

Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) Roman poet, writer
Telephus, frag 412-414 [tr. Miller (1913)]
    (Source)

The fragment comes to us from Cicero, De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 16 / sec. 51 (44 BC). Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

He that directs the wandering traveller,
Doth, as it were, light another's torch by his own;
Which gives him ne'er the less of light, for that
It gave another.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

The man who kindly points out the way to the wandering traveller, gives light to the lamp of another, without diminishing by the communication the light of his own.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

He who kindly shows the bewildered traveller the right road, does as it were light his lamp by his own; which affords none the less light to himself after it has lighted the other.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Who kindly shows a wanderer his way,
Lights, as it were, a torch from his own torch, --
In kindling others' light, no less he shines.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

The man who kindly points the way top a wanderer, does as though he kindles a light from the light that is his; it shines none the less for himself when he has kindled it for his fellow.
["trib Teleph. R suae lumine accendit facis Hartman, Mnemoe., XXI, 382 fortass recte"]
Added on 16-Jan-20 | Last updated 4-Jan-21
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Come heed me, my brothers, come heed, one and all
Don’t brag about standing or you’ll surely fall
You’re shining your light and shine it you should
But you’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good

If you’re holding heaven, then spread it around
There’s hungry hands reaching up here from the ground
Move over and share the high ground where you stood
So heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good

John R. "Johnny" Cash (1932-2003) American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, author
“So Heavenly Minded, You’re No Earthly Good”
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Added on 5-Sep-19 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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To Herbert Westbrook, without whose never-failing advice, help, and encouragement, this book would have been finished in half the time.

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) Anglo-American humorist, playwright and lyricist [Pelham Grenville Wodehouse]
A Gentleman of Leisure, Dedication (1910)
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Added on 5-Sep-19 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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When all is said and all is done,
When all is lost or all is won —
In spite of musty theory,
Of purblind faith and vain conceit,
Of barren creed and sophistry:
In spite of all — success, defeat,
The Judge accords to worst and best,
Impartially, this final test:
What hast thou done with brawn and brain,
To help the world to lose or gain
An onward step? Canst reckon one
Unselfish, brave or noble deed,
That thou — nor counting cost! Hast done
To help a brother’s crying need?
Not what professed nor what believed
But what good thing hast thou achieved?

James Ball Naylor (1860-1945) American physician, writer, poet, politician
“The Final Test”
Added on 24-Jan-17 | Last updated 24-Jan-17
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Now Jesus himself saw the power that competition holds over men. He did not ignore it. Yet he does something with the conception of competition that hadn’t been done before. He takes the conception which has been used for lower purposes and rescues it from many of its dangers, by suggesting a higher method of its use. This is how he applied the term to his disciples. He saw them in danger of using it for low purposes. They wanted to compete for reputation and position — “which of them should be accounted greatest?” Jesus says so, if you must use the power of competition, if you must compete with on another, make it as noble as you can by using it on noble things. Use it for a fine, unselfish thing. “He that is greatest among you shall serve.” Use it for human good. Who shall be the most useful. Compete with one another in humility. See which can be the truest servant. It seems that Christ says, “Use it, but use it for higher and holier purposes. Use it not to surpass one another in esteem, but use it to increase the amount of usefulness and brother-help.” Such conceptions of competition lead to the surprising and ennobling position that there can be competition without hate and jealousy. Behold! You can struggle to beat and yet rejoice to be beaten.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Cooperative Competition / Noble Competition,” sermon outline
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Added on 23-Nov-16 | Last updated 23-Nov-16
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The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up.

Twain - cheer somebody else up - wist_info quote

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]

Often given as "The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up." More discussion here.
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Weight of Glory,” sermon, Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin (8 Jun 1941)
Added on 8-Jul-16 | Last updated 8-Jul-16
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The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.

Roosevelt - pull his weight - wist_info quote

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Speech, New York (11 Nov 1902)
Added on 16-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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It’s okay if you don’t want to feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or house the homeless. Just don’t say you’re doing it for their own good. Don’t say you’d like to help people, but your hands are tied, because if you did it would cause a “culture of dependency,” or “go against the Bible,” or, worst of all, “rob them of their freedom” to be sick and hungry. Just admit you’re selfish, and based on how little your beliefs mirror the actual teachings of Jesus you might as well be worshiping Despicable Me.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Real Time with Bill Maher (8 Nov 2013)
Added on 15-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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When I think about all the money we spent on bombs and munitions, and our failures in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world … Instead of advancing our agenda using force, we should have instead built schools and hospitals in these countries, improving the lives of their children. By now, those children would have grown into positions of influence, and they would be grateful to us instead of hating us.

George Shultz (b. 1920) American economist, statesman, and businessman
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in In Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind (2014).
Added on 30-Nov-15 | Last updated 21-Nov-21
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No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for any one else.

Dickens - lighten burden - wist_info

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Our Mutual Friend, ch. 9 (1864-65)
Added on 12-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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Molly served as the Folly’s housekeeper, cook, and rodent exterminator. She never speaks, has too many teeth and a taste for raw meat, but I try never to hold that against her or let her get between me and the exit.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Moon Over Soho (2011)
Added on 11-Nov-15 | Last updated 11-Nov-15
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Most People return small Favors, acknowledge middling ones, and repay great ones with Ingratitude.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Apr 1751)
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Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men (2003)
Added on 3-Jun-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-15
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Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes. Any help we can give you must be different from that you can give yourselves, and perhaps the value of that help may lie in the fact of that difference.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
Three Guineas, ch. 1 (1938)
Added on 11-Aug-14 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
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It is all right to tell a man to lift himself up by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself up by his own bootstraps.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Sermon, Passion Sunday, National Cathedral (31 Mar 1968)
Added on 4-Jun-14 | Last updated 4-Jun-14
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He rises by lifting others.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Liberty”
Added on 30-Dec-13 | Last updated 30-Dec-13
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It will not do to diminish personal responsibility: do not give money and teach the man to expect it. Do not give him a Bible, or a genius, to think for him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1846, undated)
Added on 17-Jun-13 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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The superior man is the providence of the inferior. He is eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless. He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Liberty”
Added on 11-Jan-12 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Many hands make light warke.

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 2, ch. 5 (1546)
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Added on 25-May-11 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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God has … ordered things that we may learn to bear one another’s burdens; for there is no man without his faults, none without his burden. None is sufficient in himself; none is wise in himself; therefore, we must support one another, comfort, help, teach, and advise one another.

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) German monk, author
The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, ch. 16 (c. 1418) [tr. L. Sherley-Price (1952)]
    (Source)

Alt trans.: "But God has so ordained, that we may learn to bear with one another's burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise ...."
Added on 1-May-09 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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All those who try to go it sole alone,
Too proud to be beholden for relief,
Are absolutely sure to come to grief.

Frost - go it sole alone - wist_info quote

Robert Frost (1874-1963) American poet
Haec Fabula Docet” (1947)
Added on 28-Oct-08 | Last updated 16-Feb-16
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Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Gods” (1876)
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Added on 11-Apr-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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The gods help them that help themselves.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “Hercules and the Wagoner” (6th C BC)
    (Source)

Alternate translation: "Heaven only aided those who endeavoured to help themselves. It is in vain to expect our prayers to be heard, if we do not strive as well as pray." [tr. James (1848)]
Added on 20-Jul-07 | Last updated 16-Sep-21
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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Lion and the Mouse” (6th C BC)

Alternate translation: "Kindness is seldom thrown away" [tr. James (1848)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Sep-21
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There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) American educator, writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jan-22
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I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfil the demands that each day makes upon me, and to rejoice that others can do what I cannot. Green, the historian, tells us that the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker, and that thought alone suffices to guide me in this dark world and wide. I love the good that others do; for their activity is an assurance that whether I can help or not, the true and the good will stand sure.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” Part 1 (1903)
    (Source)

Often paraphrased as: "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confidence of their help.

Epicurus (341-270 BC) Greek philosopher
The Vatican Sayings

Alt. trans.: "It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jan-19
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