In an address over the grave of a little child, Robert G. Ingersoll said: "I had rather live and love where death is king than have eternal life where love is not. Another life is naught, unless we know and love the ones who love us here."
The most beautiful thing on this earth, that which every human being craves most is love. The mere suggestion of life without it is unthinkable, for life is love. Where love is not there is no life. There is only its semblance.
The saddest situation in life, one in which most of us would be tempted to play the coward, is the feeling that nobody cares what becomes of us, whether we win or lose in the great life game.
As long as there is some one who cares, the motive is not all gone. No matter how desperate or hopeless our outlook, the feeling that somebody cares, that some one would miss us, that there is somebody who believes in us - a wife, a mother, a child, a friend, even a dumb animal - enables us to struggle on. But to feel that we are absolutely alone, friendless, that nobody cares whether we go up or down in the world, win or lose, whether we live or die, is tragic. Under such conditions, it requires stern stuff to try still to do one's best.
If it be that there is any human being so forlorn, he must have shut love out of his heart. He must have given up trying to love or to be loved. He must have stifled the love instinct implanted by the Creator in every living creature. Something has twisted his nature. He is not normal; for God made us for love - to love and be loved.
Some time ago I had a letter from a man who said he had soured on love, that he never wanted to hear the word again, or to see it in print. In his reading he avoided the subject of love. If he came across anything about it he would skip it. He vowed he would never have anything more to do with love. He was done with it forever.
He did not say what had caused this revulsion against love. Perhaps he had been jilted by some coquette. Perhaps he had been deceived or betrayed by one he had trusted as his friend. But whatever the cause, I could not help feeling sorry for the man. He was trying to crush out of his heart the thing that lifts man nearest to God, that makes him divine - the one thing that makes life worth living.
A great many people are disappointed because they have so little love in their lives. I have heard one woman say that she does not believe there is any such thing as real unselfish love. She has found that what she thought was love in some of her so-called friends was only self-interest, for when she was unfortunate and was not able to pay what she owed them they turned against her. In other words, this woman believes that people love us only in proportion to what they think we have for them.
Without knowing it, her own mental attitude, her cold distrust of others, is driving love and sympathy away from her. In a general way, we get back as much love as we give. The feelings we arouse in others, the sentiments, the emotions, the passions we excite, are good indicators of our own disposition, our own character. If we arouse suspicion, distrust, jealousy, envy, these qualities must exist to some extent in ourselves. Like attracts like. We call out of others that which corresponds to our mental attitude toward them, our treatment of them.
Many people who are famishing for love, whose greatest disappointment is that their love instinct is not satisfied, make it impossible for love to burn in their hearts, because there is so little there that goes with love. A heart full of bitterness, of envy and jealousy, of greed, of cold selfishness, an overleaping ambition for place, fame, power, is no dwelling place for love. Love could not dwell in such an atmosphere. It would be chilled to death.
Most of us by our wrong mental attitude drive away the very things we long for and struggle to attain. Every normal being longs for love, and yet how many are constantly driving it from them by their mental attitude and their unlovely ways.
A mother who all her life has been hungry for love is alienating her children by the exactions of an unfortunate temperament. She makes the home so uncomfortable by her hard, critical, faultfinding spirit and her disagreeable disposition that her children are never happy there. They are always glad to get away from it and from their mother. Nothing they do pleases her. She is continually finding fault with their conduct, their dress, their manners, their habits. They never get a word of praise or commendation from her, no matter how hard they strive for it. The result is that she is driving what love they have for her out of their hearts.
True love is never exacting, or faultfinding. It cannot be unkind or querulous. If you want to be loved you must stop barking at the bad in others and look for the good. You will always find what you look for.
"In the heart of Africa, among the great lakes," says Drummond, "I have come across black men and women who remembered the only white man they ever saw before - David Livingstone; and, as you cross his footsteps in that dark continent, men's faces light up as they speak of the kind doctor who passed there years ago. They could not understand him; but they felt the love that beat in his heart."
Down in Kentucky, on the outskirts of a little back town, in a sassafras thicket, is a roughly hewn stone, overgrown with wild vines. Carved on the stone are these words: "Jane Laler. Ded Agus 1849. She wuz alius kin' to everybuddie."
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the great city of London, is another monument to one who had been kind to everybody. It is a very different sort of monument to the rough stone in the Kentucky town, but the sentiment that prompted it is the same. Over Lord Shaftesbury's body in Westminster Abbey are carved two words - "Love; Service." Not because of his wealth, his rank, his intellect and great statesman-like gifts, does this man hold an assured place in the hearts of his countrymen; no, what endears him to all ranks is that unselfish love which prompted him to give his life to the service of his fellow-man.
Love is the golden key with which all hearts are opened. It is the magic door through which we must pass to the hearts of our fellow men as well as to success in work and life.
Even the best service without love lacks that which makes it divine. "We love them first," said a member of the Salvation Army in answer to my question as to what their first step was in endeavoring to reclaim the poor outcasts whom they rescue from the streets. This is the secret of the marvelous growth of the Salvation Army.
Into everything you do you must put this mighty, vivifying force, or you will not succeed on the highest plane. You may go into the slums of a large city, or out into the highways and byways, through a sense of duty, or because you are a church member, and do not wish to appear behind others, or for some other reason, to relieve the necessities of the poor, to instruct the ignorant and lead them to a knowledge of better things; but if you do not love the work, do not love the people you are trying to help, your efforts will be futile.
If we want to flood our lives with sunshine and love we must be real men and women; and to be real men and women there are some things besides getting a living which we must do. Whatever our vocations we must make a business of humanity. There are many lines of this great business which we can carry on as side lines with our vocations, Such as the cheering-up line, the encouraging line, the lend-a-hand line.
It will cost us nothing to scatter our flowers as we go along, and we shall never go over just the same road again. No matter how limited our means we can give a smile and a word of cheer to those who minister to our comforts, who help us in our daily work - the newsboy, the car conductor, the waiter, the clerk, the porter on the train, those who serve us in our home. Kind words, a smile, a bit of encouragement or inspiration may seem but little things, of no account to many of us, yet they may be worth everything to some lonely or discouraged soul famishing for sympathy and encouragement.
A few words of loving sympathy from a stranger encouraged a young English lad to pursue his studies and become a famous author.
"He is the most stupid boy in school. I can't drive anything into his head," said his teacher to a visitor to the school this lad was attending. The visitor made a little talk to the scholars and then passed into another room. In leaving the school, however, he made an opportunity to speak to the so-called stupid boy. Patting him on the head, he said, "Never mind, my boy, you may be a great scholar some day. Do not be discouraged, but try hard, and keep on trying."
The boy had been told so often that he was a stupid good-for-nothing that he began to think it was true. But the words of the great man who had spoken so encouragingly to him set his ambition aflame and filled him with a new hope. They kept ringing in his ears, and he said to himself, "I will show my teacher and others who have so long regarded me as a stupid good-for-nothing that there is something in me." The boy became the famous Dr. Adam Clark, author of the great Commentary on the Bible and other important works.
It is the easiest thing in the world to send a little sunshine into other lives, to radiate good cheer, kindliness wherever we go. Opportunities for this are never lacking, and the opportunities let slip to-day will never come back again. But the writing a kindly letter, the dropping a cheering word, the little kindnesses by the wayside, will come back to us in a thousand ways and give enduring satisfaction.
"Human beings," says Ruskin, "owe a debt of love to one another, because there is no other method of paying the debt of love and care which all of us owe to Providence." In other words, the habit of passing along the good things that come to us, giving out the words of good cheer, giving the glad hand, the glad heart, saying the helpful word, is a service to the God who sent us here as well as to our neighbor. And these little offices and services which we can perform every day without interference with our regular work will play a greater part in our happiness and satisfaction than the money that we earn or anything we receive from others.
"It is in giving, not in seeking gifts We find our quest."
Says a writer: "If my love halts, my life limps. If I hate, I am wounded out of life. Only as I love with love universal, excluding none, can the Love Universal eternally make its beauties in me and through me laugh out its holiest joys."
Only through the daily practice of love toward all with whom we come in contact can we win that which is the essence of God Himself - that beautiful, spontaneous love for which all hearts hunger.