Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 20, 2013


Try to wake up with a morning face and a morning heart


          At 81 every new morning is a marvelous blessing. Though I don’t bounce out of bed I do rejoice to see the morning light. My old bones move rather slowly now but I can still walk on my own. On my doctor’s advice I stand still on my feet for a few seconds before starting the walk to the bathroom. He says this allows my blood to start circulating and will help me to avoid falling.

          My wife and I are early risers. I reckon old folks just don’t require much sleep. My coffee is perking a little after six most mornings and we are both eager to start the new day.

I do my best to match the pleasant disposition of my sweet wife. She greets every morning cheerfully. Dean is a convert of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson who admonished people to get up with a happy face, what he called “a morning face and a morning heart.”

Stevenson is one of the people I wish I had known. He died too soon. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1850, he died of a stroke in 1894. His 44 years were wonderfully productive. His books are treasured worldwide. You remember that he wrote Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as excellent poetry.  

If I could talk to Stevenson I would tell him how much his poetry has meant to my wife. For years she has blessed audiences by reciting Stevenson’s delightful poem titled “The Swing.” Dean adores the poem for its charming cadence and its enthusiasm for life. But she loves it even more because it was written by a man who remained cheerful in the midst of his suffering.

Stevenson struggled with various illnesses all his life. He was so sick during his early years that he was unable to attend school as a regular student until age 14. When 26 he married Fanny, a divorcee with two children, who also suffered from poor health. Despite her own health problems Fanny devotedly nursed Robert until his death.

Robert and Fanny lived in several countries, including France and America, but fell in love with the climate in the Pacific. So in 1890 they settled in Samoa where he continued writing and became known and loved by the Samoans. They called him “Tusitala,” a writer of tales. The brief four years in Samoa were the happiest years of their lives.

A victim of tuberculosis, Robert refused to surrender to despair and self-pity. He rose above his pain and maintained a positive attitude. One of his stepdaughters, Isobel Field, described Stevenson’s victorious spirit in a book of her own, This Life I’ve Loved.

Isobel wrote, “One day Stevenson read us a prayer he had just written. In it were words none of us will ever forget:

          ‘When the day returns, call us up with morning faces and morning hearts, eager to labor, happy if happiness be our portion, and if the day be marked for sorrow, strong to endure.’

          Isobel continued: “We awakened on the morrow with happy morning faces, but that day was marked for sorrow. That day, at the height of his fame, in the best of health he had ever enjoyed, Louis went out of this life suddenly, quietly, painlessly.”

          When I am tempted to be grouchy in the morning, it helps to remember Stevenson’s indomitable courage and his resolve to wear a cheerful morning face. The world needs more people with morning faces and morning hearts. I think I shall try to be such a person until the Lord calls me home.

          Oh by the way, enjoy “The Swing” one more time:

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!


Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,

Rivers and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside—


Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roof so brown—

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!

(A Child’s Garden of Verses, 1999)