119) “The Whistle” by Benjamin Franklin

Adapted from The Fourth Reader (Minnesota Textbook Series), 1878, by D. Appleton and Company. 

     When I was a child, seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pockets with coppers.  I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and, being charmed with the sound of a whistle that I saw on the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered the storekeeper all my money for one.

     I then came home and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family.  My brothers and sisters and cousins, hearing about the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth.

     This put me in mind of what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and they laughed at me so much for my folly that I cried with vexation.

     This, however, was afterward of use to me, the impression continuing in my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, “Don’t give too much for the whistle,” and so I saved my money.

     As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

     When I saw anyone too ambitious of the favor of the great, wasting time in attendance on public dinners, sacrificing his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, “This man gives too much for his whistle.”

     When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in politics, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, “He pays, indeed,” said I, “too much for this whistle.”

     If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, all for the sake of accumulating wealth, “Poor man,” said I, “you do indeed pay too much for your whistle.”

     When I met a man of pleasure, sacrificing the improvement of his mind, or of his fortune, to mere bodily comfort, “Mistaken man,” said I, “you are providing pain for yourself instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.”

     If I saw one fond of fine clothes, fine furniture, or fine horses, all above his fortune, for which he contracted debts, and ended his career in prison, “Alas!” said I, “he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.”

     In short, I believed that a great part of the miseries of mankind were brought upon them by the false estimates they had made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.


Mark 8;36-37  —  Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” 

Matthew 22:35-38  —  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Colossians 3:1-2  —  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.


Let me never think, O eternal Father, that I am here to stay.  Let me still remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.  Preserve me by thy grace, good Lord, from so losing myself in the joys of earth that I may have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven.  Let not the happiness of this day become a snare to my too worldly heart.  And if, instead of happiness, I have today suffered any disappointment or defeat, if there has been any sorrow where I had hoped for joy, or sickness where I had looked for health, give me grace to accept it from Thy hand as a loving reminder that this is not my home.  Amen.   –John Baillie (1886-1960)