Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,
The Family Purse,
The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,
Little Things that are Trifles,
A Mistake on John's Part,
Must-haves and May-bes,
What Good Will It Do?
Shall I Pass It On?
"Only Her Nerves,"
The Rule of Two,
The Perfect Work of Patience,
According to His Folly,
Is Marriage Reformatory?
And Other Relations-in-Law,
A Timid Word for the Step-mother,
Children as Helpers,
Children as Burden-bearers,
Our Young Person,
Getting Along in Years,
The Gospel of Conventionalities,
Familiar, or Intimate?
Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,
The Family Invalid,
A Temperance Talk,
A Parting Word for Boy,
Homely, But Important,
CHEERFULNESS AS A CHRISTIAN DUTY.
Near me stands an anniversary present from a dear friend. It is a large "loving cup," and is just now full of my favorite nasturtiums--glowing as if they held in concentrated form all the sunshine which has brought them to their glory of orange, crimson, gold and scarlet. The ware of which the cup is made is a rich brownish-yellow in color, and between each of the three handles is a dainty design in white-and-cream, surrounded by an appropriate motto. The one turned toward me at present forms the text of my present talk and will, I hope, prove a happy hint to some of my readers:
"Be always as happy as ever you can, For no one delights in a sorrowful man."
The rhyming couplet has set me to thinking, long and seriously, upon the duty of cheerfulness, a duty which we owe not only to our fellow-men, but to ourselves. It is such an uncomfortable thing to be miserable that I marvel that any sensible human being ever gives way to the inclination to look on the dark side of life.
In writing this article, I wish to state in the beginning that the women to whom it is addressed are not those over whom bereavement has cast dark shadows. For genuine grief and affliction I have vast and unbounded sympathy. For imaginary woes I have none. There is a certain class of sentimentalists to whom it is positive joy to be made to weep, and the longer they can pump up the tears the more content they are. These are people who have never known a heart-sorrow. They revel in books that end in death, and they listen to the details of a dying-bed scene with ghoulish interest. Had genuine bereavement ever been theirs, they would find only harrowing pain in such things. Shallow brooks always gurgle most loudly in passing over the stones underlying them. The great and mighty river flows silently and calmly above the large boulders hidden far below the surface.
The women of this sentimental class are those that read and write verses upon "tiny graves," "dainty coffins," and "baby shrouds."
The other day a friend shuddered audibly over the poem, admired by many, entitled--"The Little White Hearse."
"Just listen," she exclaimed, "to this last verse! After describing the grief of the mother whose baby has just ridden to what she calls 'its long, lasting sleep,' she further harrows up the feelings by winding up with:--
"'I know not her name, but her sorrow I know-- While I paused on that crossing I lived it once more. And back to my heart surged that river of woe That but in the heart of a mother can flow-- For the little white hearse has been, too, at my door.'
"How could she write it? How could she bring herself to put that down in black and white with the memory of the baby she has lost, in her mind?"
"My dear," quietly answered a deep-natured, practical woman,--"either the author of that poem is incapable of such suffering as some mothers endure, or the little white hearse has never stopped at her door. If it had, she could not have written the poem."
She who "talks out" her pain is not the one who is killed by it. A peculiarity of hopeless cases of cancer is that the sufferer therefrom has a dread of mentioning the horror that is eating away her life.
Since, then, imaginary woe is a species of self-indulgence, let us stamp that healthful person who gives way to it as either grossly selfish or foolishly affected. Illness is the only excuse for such weakness, and even then will-power may do much toward chasing away the blue devils.
Some people find it harder than others to be uniformly cheerful. While one man is, as the saying is, "born happy," another inherits a tendency to look upon the sombre aspect of every matter presented to him. To the latter, the price of cheerfulness is eternal vigilance lest he lapse into morbidness. But after a while habit becomes second nature. I do not advocate the idea of taking life as a huge joke. The man or woman who does this, throws the care and responsibility that should be his or hers upon some other shoulders. My plea is for the brave and bright courage that makes labor light. When we work, let us work cheerfully; when we play, let us play with our whole hearts. In this simple rule lies the secret of the youth that endures long after the hair is white and the Delectable Mountains are in sight.
There is no habit of more fungus-like growth than that of melancholy, yet many good people give way to it. Some Christians go through this life as if it were indeed a vale of tears, and they, having been put in it without their consent were determined to make the worst of a bad bargain, and to be as wretched as opportunity would allow. How much better to consider this very good world as a garden, whose beauty depends largely upon our individual exertions to make it fair. We may cultivate and enjoy the flowers, or let them become so overrun with underbrush that the blossoms are smothered and hidden under the dank growth of the evil-smelling and common weeds.
Said a clergyman to one of his depressed and downcast parishioners:
"My friend, your religion does not seem to agree with you."
Only a few chapters back I quoted from the Apostle of Cheerfulness--Dr. Holmes--that most quotable of men. But he expresses what I would say so much more clearly than I can, that once more I refer my readers to him. I do not apologize for doing so. This last one of the noble company of America's great writers, who have passed away during the last ten years, cannot be read too much or loved too dearly. Let us see, what he, as Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, has to say on this subject.
"Oh, indeed, no! I am not ashamed to make you laugh occasionally. I think I could read you something which I have in my desk which would probably make you smile. Perhaps I will read it one of these days if you are patient with me when I am sentimental and reflective; not just now. The ludicrous has its place in the universe; it is not a human invention, but one of the divine ideas, illustrated in the practical jokes of kittens and monkeys long before Aristophanes or Shakespeare. How curious it is that we always consider solemnity and the absence of all gay surprises and encounter of wits as essential to the idea of the future life of those whom we thus deprive of half their faculties, and then call blessed. There are not a few who, even in this life, seem to be preparing themselves for that smileless eternity to which they look forward by banishing all gayety from their hearts and all joyousness from their countenances. I meet one such in the street not infrequently--a person of intelligence and education, but who gives me (and all that he passes), such a rayless and chilling look of recognition--something as if he were one of Heaven's assessors, come down to 'doom' every acquaintance he met--that, I have sometimes begun to sneeze on the spot, and gone home with a violent cold dating from that instant. I don't doubt he would cut his kitten's tail off if he caught her playing with it. Please tell me who taught her to play with it?"
It is one of the unexplained mysteries of human nature that people receive their griefs as direct from the hand of God, but not their joys. Why does not a kind Father mean for us to profit by the one as much as by the other? And since into nearly every life falls more sunshine than shadow, why leave the sunny places and go out of our way to sit and mope in the darkest, dreariest shade we can find? I believe in the Gospel of Cheerfulness. It is your duty and mine to get every drop of cream off of our own especial pan of milk. And if we do have to drink skim milk, shall we throw away the cream on that account? If it were not to be used it would not be there. God does not make things to have them wasted.
All of us have our worries--some small, some great--and the strength and depth of our characters are proved by the way in which we meet the trials. Cheerfulness is God's own messenger to lighten our burdens and to make our times of joy even more bright and beautiful. Have you noticed how, as soon as you can laugh over a vexation, the sting of it is gone? And the best of it all is that you cannot be happy yourself without casting a little light, even though it be but reflected sunshine, into some other life.
William Dunbar, in 1479, said:
"Be merry, man, and take not sair to mind The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow: To God be humble, to thy friend be kind, And with thy neighbor gladly lend and borrow; His chance to-night, it may be thine to-morrow! Be blyth in heart for any aventure, How oft with wise men it has been said aforow, Without gladness availes no treasure."