( Originally Published 1879 )
God bless the cheerful person—man, woman or child, old or young, illiterate or educated, handsome or homely. Over and above every other social trait stands cheerfulness. What the sun is to nature, what the stars are to night, what God is to. the stricken heart which knows how to lean upon Him, are cheerful persons in the house and by the wayside. Man recognizes the magic of a cheerful influence in woman more quickly and more willingly than the potency of dazzling genius, of commanding worth, or even of enslaving beauty.
If we are cheerful and contented, all nature smiles with us; the air seems more balmy, the sky more clear, the ground has a brighter green, the trees have a richer foliage, the flowers a more fragrant smell, the birds sing more sweetly, and the sun, moon and stars all appear more beautiful.
Cheerfulness ! How sweet in infancy, how lovely in youth, how saintly in age! There are a few noble natures whose very presence carries sunshine with them wherever they go; a sunshine which means pity for the poor, sympathy for the suffering, help for the unfortunate, and benignity toward all. How such a face enlivens every other face it meets, and carries into every company vivacity and joy and gladness! But the scowl and frown, begotten in a selfish heart, and manifesting itself in daily, almost hourly fretfulness, complaining, fault-finding, angry criticisms, spiteful comments on the motives and actions of others, how they thin the cheek, shrivel the face, sour and sadden the countenance! No joy in the heart, no nobility in the soul, no generosity in the nature; the whole character as cold as an iceberg, as hard as Alpine rock, as arid as the wastes of Sahara! Reader, which of these countenances are you cultivating? If you find yourself losing all your confidence in human nature, you are nearing an old age of vinegar, of wormwood and of gall; and not a mourner will follow your solitary bier, not one tear-drop shall ever fall on your forgotten grave.
Look at the bright side. Keep the sunshine of a living faith in the heart. Do not let the shadow of discouragement and despondency fall on your path. However weary you may be, the promises of God will never cease to shine, like the stars at night, to cheer and strengthen. Learn to wait as well as labor. The best harvests are the longest in ripening. It is not pleasant to work in the earth plucking the ugly tares and weeds, but it is as necessary as sowing the seed. The harder the task, the more need of singing. A hopeful spirit will discern the silver lining of the darkest cloud, for back of all planning and doing, with its attendant discouragements and hindrances, shines the light of Divine promise and help. Ye are God's husbandmen. It is for you to be faithful. He gives the increase.
Be cheerful, for it is the only happy life. The times may be hard, but it will make them no easier to wear a gloomy and sad countenance. It is the sunshine and not the cloud that makes the flower. There is always that before or around us which should fill the heart with warmth. The sky is blue ten times where it is black once. You have troubles, it may be. So have others. None are free from them. Perhaps it is as well that none should be. They give sinew and tone to life—fortitude and courage to man. That would be a dull sea, and the sailor would never get skill, where there was nothing to disturb the surface of the ocean. It is the duty of every one to extract all the happiness and enjoyment he can without and within him, and, above all, he should look on the bright side of things. What though things do look a little dark? The lane will turn, and the night will end in broad day. In the long run, the great balance rights itself. What is ill becomes well; what is wrong becomes right. Men are not made to hang down either heads or lips; and those who do, only show that they are departing from the paths of true common sense and right. There is more virtue in one sunbeam than a whole hemisphere of cloud and gloom. Therefore, we repeat, look on the bright side of things. Cultivate what is warm and genial —not the cold and repulsive, the dark and morose. Don't neglect your duty; live down prejudice.
We always know the cheerful man by his hearty "good morning." As well might fog, and cloud, and vapor hope to cling to the sun-illumined landscape, as the blues and moroseness to remain in any countenance when the cheerful one comes with a hearty "good morning." Dear reader, don't forget to say it. Say it to your parents, your brothers and sisters, your schoolmates, your teachers—and say it cheerfully and with a smile; it will do you good, and do your friends good. There's a kind of inspiration in every "good morning," heartily and smilingly spoken, that helps to make hope fresher and work lighter. It seems really to make the morning good, and a prophecy of ,a good day to come after it. And if this be true of the "good morning," it is also of all kind, cheerful greetings; they cheer the discouraged, rest the tired one, and somehow make the wheels of time run more smoothly. Be liberal then, and let no morning pass, however dark and gloomy it may be, that you do not help at least to brighten it by your smiles and cheerful words.
The cheerful are the busy; when trouble knocks at your door or rings the bell, he will generally retire if you send him word " engaged." And a busy life can-not well be otherwise than cheerful. Frogs do not croak in running water. And active minds are seldom troubled with gloomy forebodings. They come up only from the stagnant depths of a spirit unstirred. by generous impulses or the blessed necessities of honest toil.
What shall we say by way of commending that sweet cheerfulness by which a good and sensible woman diffuses the oil of gladness in the proper sphere of home. The best specimens of heroism in the world were never gazetted. They play their role in common life, and their reward is not in the admiration of spectators, but in the deep joy of their own conscious thoughts. It is easy for a housewife to make arrangements for an occasional feast; but let me tell you what is greater and better: amid the weariness and cares of life; the troubles, real and imaginary, of a family; the many thoughts and toils which are requisite to make the family home of thrift, order and comfort the varieties of temper and cross-lines of taste and inclination which are to be found in a large household—to maintain a heart full of good nature and a face always. bright with cheerfulness, this is a perpetual festivity. We do not mean a mere superficial simper, which has no more character in it than the flow of a brook, but that exhaustless patience, and self-control, and kindness,, and tact which spring from good sense and brave purposes. Neither is it the mere reflection of prosperity, for cheerfulness, then, is no virtue. Its best exhibition is in the dark back-ground of real adversity. Affairs assume a gloomy aspect, poverty is hovering about the door, sickness has already entered, days of hardship and nights of watching go slowly by, and now you see the triumph of which we speak. When the strong man has bowed himself, and his brow is knit and creased, you will see how the whole life of the house-hold seems to hang on the frailer form, which, with solicitudes of her own, passing, it may be, under "the sacred primal sorrow of her sex," has an eye and an. ear for every one but herself, suggestive of expedients, hopeful in extremities, helpful in kind words and affectionate smiles, morning, noon and night, the medicine,. the light, the heart of a whole household. God bless that bright, sunny face! says many a reader, as he recalls that one of mother, wife, sister, daughter, which has been to him all that my words have described.
The industrious bee stops not to complain that there are so many poisonous flowers and thorny branches in his road, but buzzes on, selecting the honey where he can find it, and passing quietly by the places where it is not. There is enough in this world to complain about and find fault with, if men have the disposition. We often travel on a hard and uneven road, but with a cheerful spirit and a heart to praise God for his mercies, we may walk therein with great comfort and come to the end of our journey in peace.
Let us try to be like the sunshiny member of the family, who has the inestimable art to make all duty seem pleasant, all self-denial and exertion easy and desirable, even disappointment not so blank and crushing ; who is like a bracing, crisp, frosty atmosphere throughout the home, without a suspicion of the element that chills and pinches. You have known people within whose influence you felt cheerful, amiable, and hopeful, equal to anything ! Oh! for that blessed power, and for God's grace to exercise it rightly ! I do not know a more enviable gift than the energy to sway others to good; to diffuse around us an atmosphere of cheerfulness, piety, truthfulness, generosity, magnanimity. It is not a matter of great talent; not entirely a matter of great energy; but rather of earnestness and honesty, and of that quiet, constant energy which is like soft rain gently penetrating the soil. It is rather a grace than a gift; and we all know where all grace is to be had freely for the asking.