A New Year’s prayer

The Compass - - OPINION - — Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

On Dec. 10, 1866, the wife of Alan Hud­son Sr. of Pouch Cove gave birth to a child. The woman’s name is un­known at this late re­move, but the boy was his fa­ther’s name­sake and a brother for Ju­lia.

Years later, the boy’s bi­og­ra­pher wrote, “When but a week old, he was taken so crit­i­cally ill that the old fam­ily doc­tor said the baby could not live.

“But the fee­ble fa­ther said, ‘Yes, he will live and will be­come a min­is­ter of right­eous­ness.’ Then, tak­ing the help­less in­fant in his arms, he blessed him, and, lift­ing a prayer to Almighty God, ded­i­cated the child to the church.”

Eight weeks later, the se­nior man, who had been the owner of a gen­eral store, a suc­cess­ful ship cap­tain, a teacher of nav­i­ga­tion, and a faith­ful mem­ber of his church, passed peace­fully away.

His young son would in­deed live, leav­ing his own dis­tinc­tive mark as a poet, nov­el­ist, drama­tist and cler­gy­man.

As an adult, Alan Jr. re­called one childhood ex­pe­ri­ence in par­tic­u­lar.

“One of the most won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences of my childhood was a sledge ride across Cape St. Fran­cis to St. John’s,” he said. “Be­hind eight mag­nif­i­cent, great New­found­land dogs.

“Long be­fore day came the hasty break­fast by can­dle­light, the care­ful pack­ing of gro­cery boxes and bun­dles on the sledge, a bas­ket of lunch for our­selves, a bas­ket of corn­cake and scraps for our steeds.

“Last but not least, the stow­ing in of my dumpy lit­tle fig­ure, tucked to the chin in warm wolf robes be­side the driver, then a swish and a snap of his long, lashed whip; a wild leap, a cho­rus of glad barks from those splen­did dogs, and away we flew, un­der the morn­ing starlight, into track­less fields of snow, or seem­ingly so to my won­der­ing young eyes.

“The mu­sic of the bells on the dogs, their joy­ous cries as they strained their wiry mus­cles to their task, their curly, glis­ten­ing, black and white coats, their long, silky ears and plumy tails swept back­ward in the morn­ing wind, thrilled my child­ish imag­i­na­tion with that sense of mo­tion and wild ad­ven­ture.

“The vast ex­panse of white, un­trod­den snow-fields, the deep blue sky arch­ing over us, lit by a thou­sand glis­ten­ing lamps, our on­ward dash to­ward the sparkling hori­zon, all come back to me like some glo­ri­ous flight to­ward the stars!”

When, in the spring of 1896, Rev. Alan Hud­son Jr. re­ceived a call to the First Con­gre­ga­tional Church, in Brock­ton, Mas­sachusetts, he said to his wife, Ella, “God help me to fill my dy­ing fa­ther’s prophecy.”

On Jan. 1, 1905, Hud­son com­posed a prayer for the new year. It is a prayer that can be prayed by both the re­li­gious and ir­re­li­gious. Though writ­ten by a Protes­tant min­is­ter, it con­tains no ref­er­ence to God per se.

The au­thor of the prose poem, “Desider­ata,” en­cour­ages read­ers to “be at peace with God, what­ever you con­ceive (God) to be.” So per­haps, re­gard­less of our re­li­gious or ir­re­li­gious predilec­tion, we can pray this prac­ti­cal prayer as we stand on the cusp of a brand new year.

“Help me to face the fu­ture bravely; not with re­gret for wrongs I can­not righten, but with re­solve for new and no­bler do­ing.

“Help me to love my brother man whate’er his colour, creed or race. Teach me to know that love is greater than creed, that noble deeds out­live the ac­ci­dent of birth.

“Help me to be kind to the poor, loyal to my friends, and fair to me en­e­mies; slow to be­lieve wrong of another, and quick to be­lieve the right; not prone to sus­pi­cion, weak­ness or lit­tle­ness of soul, but char­i­ta­ble in judg­ment to rich and poor alike.

“Give me courage to see the wrong in my­self, and for­give it in oth­ers; to do good with­out thought of praise or re­ward; to give the word of hope to those who sor­row, and the shoul­der of strength to those who carry bur­dens.

“Help me to go with cheer to my daily task and do it well, and when it’s done to live in joy with those I love at home. Give me the gift of health that I may work and rest, and on the mor­row face my du­ties bravely like a man. Amen.”

In 1912, Hud­son would write a well-re­ceived novel, “A Her­itage of Hon­our.” In­ter­est­ingly, he ded­i­cated it to two women in his life, “my mother, a gen­tle lady of the old school, (and) my wife, a sweet lady of the new, in whose ten­der eyes of brown and blue I see as in a mir­ror a fa­mil­iar face.”

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