Domestic joy is the only joy that is complete. Truly has the poet said: “Domestic joy, thou only bliss of paradise that hath survived the fall.”
Man may cultivate his intellect and derive pleasure from obedience to its laws even though he may not have a home. He may derive a joy from obedience to the laws of his moral nature while he is a hermit or a wanderer. He may even derive some enjoyment from partial obedience to laws of his social nature. But all enjoyment from this source must be partial, because all obedience to the social law must be incomplete outside the domestic circle.
The family is the truest type of society. But without a fireside, man’s domestic nature, from which he derives by far the largest amount of his earthly enjoyment, cannot but remain cold and almost entirely inactive. This department of his nature can be kept alive only by the heart of the hearthstone. Conscience must be kept sharp by the pathetic appeals of little children, by the tender looks and anxious words of mothers and sisters, and by the nice adjustments of domestic obligations.
With feelings of delight, I look back to the time when my mother with her seven children would gather around a large table in the sitting room after supper was over. Every child present knew that the ruling spirit was a mother’s devotion. No child of mother ever had a care while home but what everyone of the family was ready to share it. No child was absent but a reason was given.
Sunshine was in every heart, and work was taught to be a blessing. Love and common sense ruled the home, and joy and a happy home were the result. After the day’s work was finished and school lessons prepared, then came an hour or so of enjoyment. There were games, recitations, music, and reading of good books in which all took part.
And there was no lack of company or companions in our home, for all were made welcome, and many members of this association will never forget the pleasant evenings spent at Aunt Annie’s.
There is joy in the very thought that one has a home. There is joy in the poetry with which the divine artists of time and memory conspire to paint the old homestead. Joy is heightened and pain is lightened by being shared, but home is the only place on earth where they can be fully shared. Everywhere else there is a reserve that makes our joys and pains peculiarly our own.
The joys of home are the only ones of which we never weary. We grow tired of those joys that come from mingling promiscuously in society. We tire of the exciting pleasures of trade and commerce. We tire of gazing at the marble fronts and gilded palaces of the great city. We shut our eyes and close our ears in weariness and disgust even at the sights and sounds of the public park. But we never grow tired of a mother’s cheer, although the birds in the park may weary us. We may leave the art gallery satiated, but the old pictures on the walls of home are ever new.
We can choose to look at the bright side of things or at the dark. We can follow good and eschew evil thoughts. We can be wrong-headed and wrong-hearted, or the reverse, as we ourselves determine. The world will be to each one of us very much what we make it. The cheerful are its real possessors, for the world belongs to those who enjoy it. It must be admitted, however, that there are cases beyond the reach of the moralist. Once, when a miserable-looking dyspeptic called upon a leading physician and laid his case before him, “Oh!” said the doctor, “you only want a good hearty laugh; go and see Grimaldi!” “Alas!” said the miserable patient, “I am Grimaldi!”
In the changes of real life, joy and grief are never far apart. In the same street the shutters of one house are closed, while the curtains of the next are brushed by the passing dancers. A wedding party returns from church, and a funeral train leaves from the adjacent house. Gladness and sighs brighten and dim the mirror of daily life. Tears and laughter are twin-born. Like two children sleeping in one bed, when one wakes and stirs, the other wakes also.
Be not dismayed at the trials of life; they are sent for our good. God knows what keys in the human soul to touch in order to draw out its sweetest and most perfect harmonies. These may be the strains of sadness and sorrow as well as the loftier notes of joy and gladness.
Think not that uninterrupted joy is good. The sunshine lies upon the mountain top all day, and lingers there latest and longest at eventide. Yet the valley is green and fertile while the peak is barren and unfruitful. Life that is all sunshine without shade, all happiness without sorrow, all pleasure without pain, were not life at all, at least not human life. Take the life of the happiest. It is a tangled yarn. It is made up of joys and sorrows, and the joys are all the sweeter because of the sorrows.
Never meet trouble halfway, but let him have the whole walk for his pains. Perhaps he will give up his visit, even in sight of your house. If misfortune comes, be patient and he will soon stalk out again, for he cannot bear cheerful company.
To mourn without measure is folly; not to mourn at all is insensibility. God says to the fruit tree, “Bloom and bear,” and to the human heart, “Bear and bloom.” The soul’s great blooming is the flower of suffering. As the sun converts clouds into a glorious drapery, firing them with gorgeous hues, draping the whole horizon with its glorious costume and writing victory along their front, so sometimes a radiant heart lets forth its hopes upon its sorrows, and all blackness flies; and troubles that trooped to appall seem to crowd around as a triumphant procession following the steps of a victor.
Let us cherish the joys of home, for their perennial freshness hints at their eternity. The child who with his playmates wanders from his home over the hill and meadow, when he wearies of his sports and games, turns at nightfall to his home to lay his weary head upon his mother’s breast. So when we shall weary of the little duties and joys of earth, may we find our homeward way back across life’s meadow and up the hill to the threshold of our home eternal to a mansion prepared for the faithful.