A lean, awkward boy came one morning to the door of the principal of a celebrated school and asked to see him.
A servant eyed his thread-worn clothes, and thinking he looked more like a beggar than anything else, told him to go around to the kitchen.
The boy did as he was directed, and soon appeared at the back door.
"I should like to see Mr. Brown," said he.
"You want a breakfast, more like," said the servant girl, "and I can give you that without troubling him."
"Thank you," responded the boy, "I should have no objection to a bit of bread, but I should like to see Mr. Brown, if he can see me."
"Some old clothes, may be what you want," remarked the servant, again eyeing the boy’s patched trousers. "I guess he has none to spare; he gives away a lot," and without minding the boy’s request, she set out some food upon the kitchen table and went about her work.
"Can I see Mr. Brown?" again asked the boy, after finishing his meal.
"Well, he’s in the library. If he must be disturbed, he must, but he does like to be alone sometimes," replied the girl in a peevish tone. She seemed to think it very foolish to admit such an ill-looking fellow into her employer’s presence. However, she wiped her hands, and told him to follow her.
Opening the library door, she said: "Here’s somebody, sir, who is dreadfully anxious to see you, and so I let him in."
I don’t know how the boy introduced himself, or how he opened his business, but I know that after talking awhile, the principal put aside the volume he was studying, took up some Greek books, and began to examine the new-comer. The examination lasted some time. Every question that the principal asked, the boy answered as readily as could be.
"Upon my word," exclaimed the principal, "you certainly do well!" Looking at the boy from head to foot, over his glasses, he asked, "Why, my boy, where did you pick up so much?"
"In my spare moments," answered the boy.
Here he was, poor, hard-working, with but few opportunities for schooling, yet almost fitted for college, by simply improving his spare moments. Truly, are not spare moments the "gold dust of time"? How precious they should be! What account can you give of your spare moments? What can you show for them? Look and see.
This boy can tell you how very much can be laid up by improving them; and there are many other boys [and girls], I am afraid, in the jail, in the house of correction, in the bar or in the pool hall, who, if you should ask them when they began their sinful courses, might answer, "In my spare moments."
"In my spare moments I played addictive games."
"In my spare moments I began to smoke and drink."
"It was in my spare moments that I began to steal candy from the corner store."
"It was in my spare moments that I gathered with wicked associates."
Oh, be very, very careful how you spend your spare moments! Temptation always hunts you out in small seasons like these when you are not busy; Satan gets into your hearts, if he possibly can, in just such gaps. There he hides himself, planning all sorts of mischief. Take care of your spare moments. "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 216.