On the Comfort of Giving

It was today, eighty-nine years ago, that Calvin Coolidge Jr. died of blood poisoning at the age of sixteen. Even in his profound grief, however, Calvin Coolidge found comfort in giving time and attention to others. He was not a self-absorbed man and his acute thoughtfulness and abiding optimism prompted him to give to others in need. He kept his faith, knowing he would see his boy again in eternity. Restraining his emotions in public was one of his trademarks but on occasion, the dignity he maintained succumbed to the measure of loss he felt. Colonel Starling recounts one such instance when, through his sadness, he offered himself in the service of encouragement to someone else. Colonel Starling recounts,

“Very early one morning when I came to the White House I saw a small boy standing at the fence, his face pressed against the iron railings. I asked him what he was doing up so early. He looked up at me, his eyes large and round and sad.

‘I thought I might see the President,’ he said. ‘I heard that he gets up early and takes a walk. I wanted to tell him how sorry I am that his little boy died.’

‘Come with me, I’ll take you to the President,’ I said.

He took my hand and we walked into the grounds. In a few minutes the President came out and I presented the boy to him. The youngster was overwhelmed with awe and could not deliver his message, so I did it for him.

The President had a difficult time controlling his emotions. When the lad had gone and we were walking through Lafayette Park he said to me: ‘Colonel, whenever a boy wants to see me always bring him in. Never turn one away or make him wait'” (Starling of the White House, p.224).

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