I grew up saying the 4-H pledge:
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
The fourth line always bothered me. What does “better living” mean? What does health have to do with it? What if I get sick?
“Head, heart, and hands” seemed simpler, more concrete. “Health” seemed added on somehow.
Years later, I was reminded of the pledge when I came across these quotes:
“Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.”
—John Ruskin, 1859
“You need the eye, the hand, and the heart. Two won’t do.”
—David Hockney, 2012
I asked my dad and stepmom about it on a recent trip home (they’re both retired extension agents) and my stepmom told me that my intuition was correct: originally there were only 3 H-s: head, heart, and hand.
Not only that, but when the fourth H was added (hence the 4-leaf clover), it wasn’t for “health,” it was for “hustle.” In a 1913 edition of The Rural Educator, O.H. Benson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, outlined what he thought made a good rural leader:
…the leader must be a four-square individual, trained in head, heart, hands, and hustle, the four H’s rather than the three R’s. A leader must have a head trained to think, plan, and reason, both with the child and his environments, and not be a slave to the mere textbook. He must have a heart trained to be true, kind, and sympathetic, with hands trained to be useful, helpful, and skillful, and with the hustle trained to render ready service, to develop health and vitality, and to furnish a suitable background for a noble purpose.
I like those 4 H’s a lot: head, heart, hands, and hustle. You need all four.
Update 4/5/2018: I’ve been re-thinking “hustle” lately, especially given that since I wrote this post, an actual con-artist has become the leader of our nation. As Clayton Cubitt put it:
The phrase “respect the hustle” makes me sad.
We deserve a world where nobody has to hustle.
What I know for sure is that the original recipe still holds: you need the head, your heart, and your hands.