Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. - Prov. 15:17.
The heart needs not for its heaven much space, nor many stars therein, if only the star of Love has arisen. - Richter.
"He is the happiest, be he king or peasant," said Goethe, "who finds peace in his home."
That peace is found only where the love spirit dwells, the spirit of mutual helpfulness and willing self-sacrifice. It may be within the four walls of a house, it may be in a tent, in a forest, on a prairie, or in a desert; it may be in a palace, or in a log cabin; it may be in a manger in a stable, as in the case of the child Jesus and his mother; it does not depend upon material things; it is born of the spirit and is sustained only by friendship, love, and sympathy.
Some time ago while visiting friends I was greatly impressed by the influence of one member of the family in creating this beautiful home spirit. Though only a young girl - the youngest of the family - she seemed to take the place of the mother, who was dead. She was the center of the home. Nothing of importance was undertaken by anyone in it without first consulting her. Not one of them would leave the house without first kissing her good-by, and she was the first one they sought when they came home. They all seemed anxious to confide in her, to tell her what had happened to them during the day, to have her opinion and advice in all difficulties. And the father relied on her as much as the rest of the family.
The secret of this young girl's influence lay in her unselfishness, her great interest in everything that concerned the others. In talking with her brothers I discovered that each thought his sister was especially interested in him and his affairs, and that he would not think of undertaking or deciding anything that required consideration without first talking it over with her. Each and all of them seemed to prefer her company to that of any other young lady, and were always proud to escort her when she went anywhere. Those boys are all clean-minded, open, frank and chivalrous, and I could not help thinking that a great deal of it was due to the sister's love for them and theirs for her.
One reason why a home like this is the sweetest, most beautiful spot on earth, is because of the love atmosphere; the harmonious vibrations it starts give a blessed sensation of rest, of peace, of security and power. The moment we enter such a place we feel its soothing, reassuring, uplifting influence. It produces a feeling of mental poise, of serenity which we do not experience elsewhere.
Where love and affection are habitually vibrating through the cells of the body they affect both health and character. They impart a sweetness and strength, a peace and satisfaction that reinforce the whole being. Harmony soothes and strengthens. Discord lacerates and weakens. The character of people who keep themselves continually stirred up by discordant emotions is skeptical, unlovely, selfish. There is nothing outside of vice which will so quickly react on mind and body as living in an atmosphere of perpetual inharmony and ill feeling.
Discordant homes are responsible for more illness, as well as unhappiness, than almost any other one cause. In families where there is continual wrangling, faultfinding and nagging, someone is ill nearly all the time. It often happens that a member of such a family, delicate, sensitively organized, very impressionable, suffers for years, while no physician, at least no orthodox physician, can correctly diagnose the case or give permanent relief, because the. trouble comes from the inharmony in the home.
Some years ago I was one of an audience which 'seemed much disgusted because the speaker suggested that most of those present had probably come from hell, that is, a hell of discord in the home or in their business, a hell of unhappiness, a nagging, distrustful, criticising hell, a hell of hatred and jealousy and utter misery. Yet he may not have been far wrong in his estimate, for there, are many people who have money enough to get anything they want except peace and happiness. These cannot be bought for money. And so multitudes of people are really living in hell; that is, they are living amidst strife, jealousies, and hatreds which drive love out of the home, for love will not stay where there is discord, it will not live with dissension.
Multitudes of rich people are bitterly disappointed because love does not seem to appreciate the value of money. They are surprised that it will live in a hovel with bare floors and pictureless walls, but will run away from palatial mansions.
I have in mind two homes which show love's way in this respect. One is that of people in very moderate circumstances, who can afford only the simplest sort of furniture, and whose style of living is as unassuming as their surroundings. But the instant you enter the house, you feel that atmosphere, that indefinable something, which alone makes the true home. The other is that of a multi-millionaire in a fashionable quarter of New York. There is everything in this mansion that money can buy, that the decorator or the artist can suggest. One sees on every side priceless works of art, mural paintings, costly decorations, rare imported rugs, tapestries, all sorts of luxuries and curios. The owner told me that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few pieces of tapestry; and his library, which contains rare manuscripts and books, represents a large fortune. As I was shown one day through this vast establishment, it seemed to me more like a cold, loveless museum than a home. There was a total lack of that sweet home spirit which makes many a little cabin a paradise in comparison with a palace without it.
I understood the reason for this lack when I learned that there was constant friction between the husband and wife, who lived in this particular palace. They had everything but love and harmony; and lacking these, in spite of all their money, they had nothing worth while. Money could not buy that spirit of sympathy, mutual helpfulness and love, without which it is impossible to make a home. Later a divorce ended the semblance of a union between these two.