Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Boreham on the Handicap

It was a sunny autumn afternoon. The leaves were rustling about my feet, and the first nip of winter was in the air. It was Saturday, and I was out for a stroll. Suddenly a crowd attracted my attention, and, impelled by that curiosity which such a concourse invariably excites, I drew near to see whether it meant a fire or a fight. It was neither.

As I approached I caught sight of young fellows moving in and out among the people, wearing light many-coloured garments, and I guessed that a race was about to be run. Almost as soon as I arrived, the men were called up, arranged in a long line, and preparations made for the start. At a signal two or three of them sprang out from the line and bounded with an easy stride along the load. A few seconds later, three or four more followed; then others; until at last only one was left; and, after a brief period of further waiting, he also left the line and set out in pursuit. It was a handicap, Iwas told, and this man had started from scratch.

It was to be a long race, and it would be some time before any of the runners could be expected back again. The crowd, therefore, dispersed for the time being, breaking up into knots and groups, each of which strolled off to while away the waiting time as its own taste suggested. I turned into a lane that led up into the bush on the hillside, and, from that sheltered and sunny eminence, watched for the first sign of the returning runners.

Sitting there with nothing to do, it flashed upon me that the scene I had just witnessed was a reflection, as in a mirror, of all human experience and endeavour. Most people are heavily handicapped; it is no good blinking the fact. Ask a man to undertake some office or assume some responsibility in connexion with the church, and he will silence you at once with a narration of the difficulties that stand in his way. Ask a man to act on some board or committee for the management of some charitable or philanthropic enterprise, and he will explain to you that he has not a minute to spare. Ask a man to subscribe to some most necessary or deserving object, and he will tell you of the incessant demands to which he is subjected.

Now it is no good putting all this down to cant. We have no right to assume that these are merely the lame excuses of men who, in their secret souls, do not desire to assist us. We must not hastily hurl at them the curse that fell upon Meroz because it came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty. All that they say is perfectly true.

The difficulties that debar the first of these men from undertaking the work to which you are calling him are both real and formidable; the second man has every moment of his time fully occupied; the third man, because he is known to be generous, is badgered to death with collecting-lists from the first thing in the morning till the last thing at night. We must not judge these men too harshly. In the uncharitableness of our hearts we imagine that they have given us excuses which are not reasons. The fact is that they have done exactly the reverse; they have given us reasons which are not excuses.

We are on safer ground when we recognize frankly that it is very difficult for many people to devote much time, much energy, and much money to the kingdom of God. Many people are heavily handicapped.

F W Boreham, ‘The Handicap’ Mushrooms on the Moor (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 117-119.

Image: “It was to be a long race, and it would be some time before any of the runners could be expected back again.”