Character Building - Sympathy
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A SYMPATHETIC nature is the inheritance of every normal child, and its cultivation is one of the cardinal virtues of the home. Beneath the mother's smile and the father's appreciative words regard for the parents ripens into a love which demands recognition and love in return. Affection originates in sympathy, and perishes without it, even though its form may remain. A child who is sympathetic at two or three often becomes selfish at five or six, and the cause is not difficult to discover. Tired or busy parents have failed to respond to the child's caress and offer of assistance, but instead have scolded, or requested it not to bother them. It takes but little of this sort of treatment to chill a sensitive child; and repeated often it will blight tendencies which encouraged would develop into a most winning nature, or it may cause the young heart to turn for satisfaction to less safe, if not to positively harmful, sources. The first notion of morality indeed arises in a child's mind through sympathy. It notes the mother's smile or frown, and, longing for harmony with her, soon tries by its behavior to produce the sunshine of the smile and avoid the shadow of the frown. The mother's sympathetic approval is its first criterion of right and wrong. In the warmth of its mother's caress fear and trouble subside. "Kiss it and make it well" is a sovereign remedy.
As the child grows, the demand for, and appreciation of, sympathy grows with him; and receiving it he is reassured where he was timid, strengthened in a chosen course, led to put forth tendrils of thought and action, and offers a precious confidence rich in opportunities for helpful influence. Nothing can compensate the son or daughter for loss of parental sympathy with their developing ideals, plans and affections; nor can anything be more destructive of joy in one's children, or influence over them, than to let a natural and affectionate interest in whatever interests them chill into indifference. It is not the sympathetic parents who complain that their children do not confide in them. Blessed is that sorrowful daughter who can hear her mother whisper, "I know, dear, what a sore temptation it was; but-" Blessed is the son, angry and troubled, whose father throws his arm across the bowed shoulders and says heartily, "I've been through it myself, old fellow. Fight it out and you'll come out on top. I know it, for I have been there!" Even punishment, inflicted in this spirit, serves its purpose of reformation, and leaves no grudge.
The cultivation of sympathy will result in a character instinct with consideration and kindness for the aged, weak and erring, and for animals. Cruelty and vindictiveness will be abhorrent to it, love and benevolence natural. "By sympathy," said an ancient philosopher, "our joys are increased and our sorrows are diminished."
After looking up the references under "Kindness," we suggest that the very young reader take Volume I and become familiar with "The north wind doth blow," "I had a little doggie," "Poor Babes in the Wood," "What Does Little Birdie Say?" and "I Like Little Pussy." In Volume II let him turn to "Proserpina," "Pyramus and Thisbe," and "Bal-dur." Volume IV contains several sympathetic tales, among which we select "Oliver Twist," "The King of the Golden River," and "The Story of a Homer." Consideration and care for animals will be inculcated by the reading of Volume V, especially chapters XIII, XXII and XXIII, and the article on "Our Wicked Waste of Life." In Volume VII be sure to read "Father Damien Among the Lepers." The biographies in Volume IX are rich in examples of big, sympathetic characters like Whittier, Livingstone, Gordon, John Wesley, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Florence Nightingale. In Volume X "The Spirit of Love" will engage the interest of every thoughtful person. There are numerous poems in Volume XI to read and remember, among them "Baby Bell," "The Sands o' Dee," "To a Mouse," "Dickens in Camp," "The Crowded Street," "The Song of the Shirt," and the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."