( Originally Published 1879 )
MORE hearts pine away in secret anguish, for the want of kindness from those who should be their comforters, than for any other calamity in life. A word of kindness is a seed which, when dropped by chance, springs up a flower. A kind word and pleasant voice are gifts easy to give; be liberal with them; they are worth more than money. "If a word or two will render a man happy," said a Frenchman, "he must be a wretch indeed, who will not give it. It is like lighting another man's candle with your own. which loses none of its brilliancy by what the other gains." If all men acted upon that principle the world would be much happier than it is. Kindness is like a calm and peaceful stream that reflects every object in its just proportion. The violent spirit, like troubled waters, renders back the images of things distorted' and broken, and communicates to them that disordered motion which arises from its own agitation. Kindness makes sun-shine wherever it goes; it finds its way into hidden chambers of the heart and brings forth golden treasures; harshness, on the contrary, seals them up forever. Kindness makes the mother's lullaby sweeter than the song of the lark, the care-laden brow of the father and man of business less severe in their expression. Kindness is the real law of life, the link that connects earth with heaven, the true philosopher's stone, for all it touches it turns to virgin gold; the true gold wherewith we purchase contentment, peace and love. Write your name by kindness, love and mercy on the hearts of the people you come in contact with year by year, and you will never be forgotten.
In the intercourse of social life it is by little acts of watchful kindness recurring daily and hourly; and opportunities of doing kindness, if sought for, are for-ever starting up; it is by words, by tones, by gestures, by looks, that affection is won and preserved.
How sweet are the affections of kindness. How balmy the influence of that regard which dwells around the fireside, where virtue lives for its own sake, and fidelity regulates and restrains the thirst for admiration, often a more potent foe to virtue than the fiercest lust.
Where distrust and doubt dim not the lustre of purity, and where solicitude, except for the preservation of an unshaken confidence, has no place, and the gleam of suspicion or jealousy never disturb the harmony and tranquility of the scene. Where paternal kindness and devoted filial affection blossom in all the freshness of eternal spring. It matters not if the world is cold, if we can turn to our own dear circle for the enjoyment of which the heart yearns. Lord Bacon beautifully says : "If a man be gracious unto strangers it shows he is a citizen of the world, and his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins them."
There is nothing like kindness in the world. It is the very principle of love; an emanation of the heart which softens and gladdens, and should be inculcated and encouraged in all our intercourse with our fellow beings. It is impossible to resist continued kindness. We may, in a moment of petulance or passion, manifest coldness to the exhibition of good will on the part of a new acquaintance ; but let him persist, let him continue to prove himself really benevolent of heart, generously and kindly disposed, and we will find our stubborn nature giving way, even unconsciously to ourselves. If this be the result of kindness among comparative strangers, how much more certain and delightful will be the exercise of the feelings at home, within the charmed circle of friends and relatives ? Home enjoyments, home affections, home courtesies, cannot be too carefully or steadily cultivated. They, form the sunshine of the heart. They bless and sanctify our private circle. They become a source of calm delight to the man of business after a day of toil, they teach the merchant, the trader, the working man, that there is something purer, more precious even, than the gains of industry. They twine themselves around the heart, call forth its best and purest emotions and resources, enable us to be more virtuous, more upright, more Christian, in all our relations of life. We see in the little beings around us the elements of gentleness, of truth, and the beauty of fidelity and religion. A day of toil is robbed of many of its cares by the thought that in the evening we may return home and mingle with the family household. There, at least, our experience teaches us we may find confiding and loving bosoms, those who look up to and lean upon us, and those also to, whom we may look for counsel and encouragement.
We say to our friends, one and all, cultivate the home virtues,- the household beauties of existence. Endeavor to make the little circle of domestic life a cheerful, an intelligent,. a kindly, and a happy one. Whatever may go wrong in the world of business and trade, however arduous may be the struggle for fortune or fame, let nothing mar the purity of reciprocal love, or throw into its harmonious existence the apple of discord.
In the intercourse of social life it is by little acts of watchful kindness, recurring daily and hourly.; and opportunities of doing kind acts, if sought for, are forever starting up; it is by words, by tones, by gestures, by looks, that affection is won and preserved.
He who neglects these trifles, , yet boasts that, when-ever a great sacrifice is called for, he shall be ready to make it, will rarely be loved. The likelihood is he will not make it; and if he does, it will be much rather for his own sake than for his neighbors. Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles, and kindness, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart, and secure comfort.
Give no pain. Breathe not a sentiment, say not a word, give not the expression of the countenance that will offend another, or send a thrill of pain to his bosom. We are surrounded by sensitive hearts, which a word or look even, might fill to the brim with sorrow. If you are careless of the opinions of others, remember that they are differently constituted from yourself, and never, by word or sign, cast a shadow on a happy heart, or throw aside the smiles of joy that linger on a pleasant countenance.
Many lose, the opportunity of saying a kind thing by waiting to weigh the matter too long. Our best impulses are too delicate to endure much handling. If you fail to give them expression the moment they rise, they effervesce, evaporate, and are gone. If they do not turn sour, they become flat, losing all life and sparkle by keeping. Speak promptly when you feel kindly.
Deal gently with the stranger. Remember the severed cord of affection, still bleeding, and beware not to wound by a thoughtless act, or a careless word. The stranger ! he, perchance, has lived in an atmosphere of love as warm as that we breathe. Alone and friend-less now, he treasures the images of loved ones far away, and when gentle words and warm kisses are exchanged, we know not how his heart thrills and the hot tear drops start. Speak gently. The impatient word our friends may utter does not wound, so mailed are you in the impenetrable armor of love. We know that it was an inadvertant word that both will forget in a moment after, or, if not, you can bear the censure of one, when so many love you ; but keenly is an unkind remark felt by the lone and friendless one.
Like a clinging vine torn from its support, the stranger's heart begins to twine its tendrils around the first object which is presented to it. Is love so cheap a thing in this world, or have we already so much that we can lightly cast off the instinctive affections thus proffered? Oh, do not ! To some souls an atmosphere of love is as necessary as the vital air to the physical system. A person of such a nature may clothe one in imagination with all the attributes of goodness and make his heart's sacrifices at the shrine. Let us not cruelly destroy the illusion by unkindness.
Let the name of stranger be ever sacred, whether it is that of an honored guest at our fire side, are the poor servant girl in our kitchen; the gray-haired or the young; and when we find ourselves far from friends, and the dear associations of home, and so lonely, may some kind, some angel-hearted being, by sympathizing words and acts, cause our hearts to thrill with unspoken gratitude, and thus we will find again the "bread" long " cast upon the waters."
Our friends we must prize and appreciate while we are with them. It is a shame not to know how much we love our friends, and how good they are, till they die. We must seize with joy all our opportunities
our duties we must perform with pleasure; our sacrifices we must make cheerfully, knowing that he who sacrifices most is noblest ; we must forgive with an understanding of the glory of forgiveness, and use the blessings we have, realizing how great are small blessings when properly accepted.
Hard words are like hail-stones in summer, beating down and destroying what they would nourish if they were melted into drops.
Kindness is stored away in the heart like rose-leaves in a drawer, to sweeten every object around them. Little drops of rain brighten the meadows, and little acts of kindness brighten the world. We can conceive of nothing more attractive than the heart when filled with the spirit of kindness. Certainly nothing so embelishes human nature as the practice of this virtue; a sentiment so genial and so excellent ought to be emblazoned upon every thought and act of our life. The principle underlies the whole theory of Christianity, and in no other person do we find it more happily exemplified than in the life of our Savior, who, while on earth, went about doing good. And how true it is that
"A little word in kindness spoken,