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Character Building - Cheerfulness

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

CHEERFULNESS has been delightfully called "the bright weather of the heart." Let the mother smile down upon the babe that gazes tearfully up into her eyes, and often out of a peevish humor a happy spirit is at once evoked, for an infant is most sensitive to look and tone. Let her meet its childish woes and hurts with an encouraging word, and very early it will begin to take a cheerful view of life; and how easily it attaches itself to any one with a bright face and a merry heart! We are generous in the education of our children, but do we not sometimes neglect the very important art of cheerfulness? Draw the child's attention to the beauty of a rainy day, and to the different blessings associated with merry spring, glowing summer, gorgeous autumn, and brisk winter. Teach them to look more often up into the sky with its wonderful cloud effects; for the cheerful ones are always those that look out and up. It is easier now than in the olden days to teach the young lessons of cheer; for more and more their social betterment is made a subject of study. It was not until late in the nineteenth century, for example, that children were taught to sing, and does not the music thus brought into their lives impart genuine pleasure?

Some mothers that read these words will sigh and say that withal life is a chapter of many and varied experiences, and that it is hard always to be bright. Well, there are clouds it is true, but there is a rift somewhere; the best way is to walk hand in hand with the children right up to manhood and womanhood, trying to carry the cheer together, and cheerfulness has an abiding element that overcomes many obstacles.

Do not worry your children about things that may never happen. Take a lesson from the story of St. Teresa. When on the way to Alamanca, to found her convent, she spent the night in a ruined house. A frightened nun who accompanied her called out to her in the darkness, "I am thinking, Mother, if I should die now, what would you do alone?" and St. Teresa, half awake, replied: "When this even happens, Sister, I will think what I ought to do; for the present let me sleep." A lady in Leamington, England, who had been a neighbor of Frances Ridley Havergal, with whose ministry of song we are familiar, said that Miss Havergal never entered her house but that her merry laugh and bright presence touched all hearts. She did not repine at her sorrows or delicate health, but "was always so cheerie." And with her we recall that other Englishwoman, Florence Nightingale, who nursed the troops in the Crimean War, and how when one night a sick soldier saw her shadow on the wall he exclaimed, "Oh, the cheer of her!" Think how the lovable Sir Walter Scott attracted alike children and animals by his genial words, and how he would say, " Give me an honest laugh!" And Oliver Wendell Holmes, who has been named "The Boston Bird with the Chirrup Note"-how he smiled as he wrote and how we smile as we read! We have lingered over these illustrations because they so plainly show us that the simplest way to inspire cheerfulness is to be cheerful. A great philosopher once said, "Give us, O give us, the man that sings at his work!"

Cheerfulness is one of the cardinal virtues. To be sad and gloomy-to look on the dark side of things and grumble-is one of the seven "deadly sins." Mothers and fathers will find suggestions on this subject in the following articles of Volume X of the Library: "Cheerfulness in the Home," "Grumblers," "A Courteous Mother," and "A Spirit of Love."

The very little children will be helped in the direction of cheerfulness and happiness by the frequent telling and singing of the best nursery rhymes and songs, such as will be found at the beginning of Volume I and Volume XII. There is also a fine collection of "Nonsense Songs" in Volume XII. The nursery tales and favorite poems in Volume I (pages 32-III), should be recited and read again and again to the little ones, and they should be encouraged to memorize them and sing and tell them to their parents and to each other. This is just as important in their development as memorizing the multiplication table. For little children to learn such poems in Volume I (pages 78-180), as "Suppose," "The Three Little Kittens," "There Was a Little Girl," "Where Are You Going, My Pretty Maid?" and to say them over and over, is a lesson in cheerfulness. Such stories and poems as "Puss in Boots," "The Man in the Moon," "The Good Time Coming," "Contented John" (Volume I, pages 120-2I0), will bring sunshine and cheer to any child. We commend for the children who are somewhat older "The Laughter Stories" toward the close of Volume I. Most of them are remarkably interesting and should be read over and over again. Later on, the boys and girls will find inspiration in the direction of cheerfulness in the life-sketches of such heroic characters as Julia Ward Howe and Abraham Lincoln (Volume IX).

In Volume III there are many cheery and delightful little stories, including "Don Quixote," and "Uncle David's Story."

In Volume XI, in the departments entitled " Girlhood Days" and "Boyhood Days," there will be found such delightful and charming poems as "A Knot of Blue," "The Barefoot Boy," etc.

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