A Plant That Needs Culture!
We do not know how much our friends do for us . . .
how they help us,
how they bless us,
how much they add to our joy,
how much of our soul prosperity we owe to them, or
what they do toward the formation and up-building of our character.
Even the friend of an hour, whom we meet on railroad or steamboat, or at the house of a friend, or amid the busy scenes of life — as when two ships meet on the broad sea — speak to each other and pass on, never to meet again. We do not know what blessings he brings to us from God, nor how that transient and casual meeting affects our whole after-life.
We know not what touches — delicate and beautiful, upon the canvas of our soul there will be forever — which the fingers of that casual friend left there. Every soul that touches ours, leaves its impression upon us. I know that I get good from every pure, gentle, amiable companion — even of a few moments. How much more, then, from the friend who walks by my side, and whose friendship sings sweet songs in my ear and heart for years and years! There will be a silver thread in every life-web when it is finished — woven into the fabric by the friendship of many days. And there will be a touch of beauty on the canvas, put there by every good and holy hand that has ever been laid upon us in momentary greeting or blessing.
It was a beautiful fantasy of the poet when he said that the song he had breathed into the air — he found again from beginning to end, long, long afterward, in the heart of a friend. In the same way, friendship is ever breathing its sweet songs into the air; and so, too, it shall find them all again, from beginning to end, in the hearts upon which they fall. Nothing that love does, is ever lost. The time we spend with pure and holy friends in sacred communings, or in the cultivation and deepening of noble friendships, is not lost. It brings us not only passing enjoyment, but permanent blessing.
There is special need of this lesson in these times. The tendency of everything is toward material results. Time which does not yield dollars and cents — is marked down as lost. Men know of no way of becoming rich — but by accumulating gold and silver. The basis of social life, is sadly mercenary. People even marry for money — or at least demand the money qualification as an essential condition.
Men are too busy to have or maintain friendships. Many are so absorbed in business, that they have not time even for the cultivation and enjoyment of their own home loves. I have read of a boy who wanted his mother to ask some favor for him of his father. And when the mother suggested that he might ask for himself, the boy replied, "I would, but I don't feel well enough acquainted with father."
I suspect there are a great many children who are not well acquainted with father. Possibly there are even some wives whose acquaintance with their husbands is very limited. Many men only see their families at an early and hurried breakfast, and a late supper. They spend no quiet hours with them in cultivating and deepening the home affections. They never romp with the children. They do not join in the home cheer. Their voices are never heard in the home songs. They do not share in the home confidences. They may be brilliant men in society. They may flash and sparkle in a neighbor's drawing-room. They may be all life and vivacity in business circles. But at home, every door of their hearts is locked. They are stern and sombre in their own houses — in the presence of those who are nearest and dearest to them.
Now no man has a right to be a bear anywhere — much less at home! Home should be a place of tender love, sacred confidences, and the interplay of holy affections. A man should bring the best of everything there . . .
his sweetest courtesies,
his gentlest kindnesses,
his best thoughts, and
his holiest confidences.
At home, he should ever appear at his best. If he must have dreary, sullen moods — then let him have them in his store or counting-room, where they will not cast deep shadows over the hearts that look up to him for sunshine. In the circle of his own loved ones — a man should open every gate of his heart, not only that his most sacred feelings and affections may flow out, but that his dear ones may enter into the holiest chambers of his soul.
He owes it to the wife, who has lavished the boundless wealth of her love upon him, and whom he swore at the altar to cherish tenderly forever. It is not enough that he loves her — his love should find expression. It should . . .
beam in his countenance,
sparkle in his eye,
flow out in his words,
live in his touch.
It is well enough to tell us on a dark, cloudy day — that the sun is shining away, bright as ever, above the clouds; but we all know how dreary such a day is, and how much better is the day of cloudless beauty. A great many men with a wealth of tender affection are like very cloudy days. The sunshine never breaks through.
Every man owes it to his children to give time to the cultivation of home love, and to bring his heart's richest treasures there. It is sad to see a child weeping over a father's coffin. But it is scarcely less sad to see a child who knows nothing of a living father's love, growing up in ignorance of the wealth of affection that lies so close to its young heart.
Many fathers complain of their children's lack of love and honor for them, and confidence in them. May not the reason be found in the fact that their own hearts were shut against them in their childhood days. They never drew out the love of their young hearts or sought to win their confidence — and now they pay the penalty, and call it ingratitude in their children.
Men should seek to have their children anchored to them by all the cords of love in their hearts. They should cultivate the home affections most assiduously and tenderly. They should never be too busy to give many hours of every week to the loved ones who cluster closest around their hearts.
Time thus spent, is not wasted. No hours yield such rich returns. No capital is so valuable, as that a man has in the hearts of others.
He is a very poor man, who has millions of gold — and no friends. He is a very rich man, who has no money, but who comes home in the evening and sits down in the midst of a circle of loving ones, knowing that he is beloved in the core of all their hearts. No economic panic can ever touch such wealth. His banks will never fail. Disasters cannot rob him — but only lay bare new veins of gold. Also, a man can carry these treasures with him into the other world. For love lives on through death.
Every wise man will seek to have friends. He will take time to cultivate friendships, and to make them deep and permanent. A selfish man or a man of irritable temper, and harsh, ungoverned speech — cannot keep friends, for there are no flowers so sensitive to the frosts — as human affections are to selfishness, bitterness, or anger.
It costs much to have friends and to cultivate and maintain deep friendships. One must give, in order to receive — and give as much as he receives. Heart must go out to meet heart. Life must clasp life. Soul must be knit to soul.
But the blessings of friendship repay a thousand times its cost. They spring up as perpetual fountains of comfort and gladness in the heart. They make a man rich — when he has lost everything else. They build up a refuge for him, when the days of darkness and adversity come, and in the feebleness and helplessness of old age. They hold him up when he is in danger of falling. They keep him always young in heart and in hope. They beautify his soul. They begin Heaven here below, for him.
How important, then, that we have friends! How important that we have holy and pure friends! An impure hand stains the soul on which it is laid. Many a character carries a blot through life — which an hour's companionship left upon it. Many a life-web is marred and spoiled by the threads which unworthy and defiling friendships weave into it through the years.
But the friendship of the pure and noble — purifies, ennobles, adorns, beautifies and exalts!