THE physical operations and material needs of the household are, of course, of fundamental importance. They do not, however, by any means constitute all the interests of the household, as many persons unfortunately appear to believe; they are merely the basis for the expression of those qualities which distinguish human beings from other forms of life. Food, warmth, and protection must be furnished, but not as ends in themselves. Every principle studied, every reform advocated, and every process adopted should be considered in the light of its role as a part of the foundation for the highest and best expression of life, whether it be physical, intellectual, moral, or spiritual. The house which is perfectly administered on its physical side has a small function in the economy of life unless it contributes to the upbuilding of men with noble minds and souls. As Emerson said: "A house should bear witness in all its economy that human culture is the end to which it is built and garnished. It is not for festivity. It is not for sleep. But the pine and the oak shall gladly descend from the mountains to uphold the roof of men as faithful and necessary as themselves, to be the shelter always open to the good and true, a hall which shines with sincerity, brows ever tranquil, and a demeanor impossible to disconcert."
In the preceding pages the attempt has been made to keep this point of view steadily before the reader. The activities of the household which remain to be considered are often said, although perhaps in the last analyses not quite truthfully, to represent "the higher life." Education, hospitality, civic cooperation, ‘sthetic enjoyment, and moral and spiritual growth are all forms of activity which must be demanded as the fruitage of those domestic efforts which are so exacting and costly as often to blind the housekeeper to the fact that they are not her final goal.
The possibilities and obligations of the household in these different directions are as varied as the families to which they belong. It is, therefore, impossible to formulate with precision any details of procedure. Certain general suggestions may, however, prove helpful. For example, if the training of children is a paramount duty, then the retention of domestic industries, as far as they prove educational, is not only justifiable but necessary. Moreover, if the carrying on of such industries as cooking and sewing contributes to the sense of pleasure or comfort, or develops a spirit of cooperation or unity in the household, they may be retained, even if they would not justify themselves on grounds of economy alone. Whether the result is worth the cost must be determined by intelligent and frank discussion.
Hospitality is a form of household activity which represents the satisfaction of a very real human craving. Nevertheless, the forms which it often assumes are such as to defeat entirely its purposes. Undue cost, social pretense, anxiety, and nerve strain crowd out genuine friendliness, enjoyment, and pleasure on the part of hostess and guest alike. Methods of attaining the real end in entertaining friends should very properly be made a matter for the family council, and devices for using modern social resources in independent and pleasurable ways should be adopted. The current forms of hospitality into which children are forced seem to need particular consideration and readjustment, while forms of entertainment, involving less cost and carried on with less formality, constitute a need which many adults feel strongly. The household is surely not performing its functions adequately until it solves these problems.
The study of the family accounts may well be given a larger place among the activities of the household. Such discussion not only has real educational value, but, for the time which it may consume, will contribute more to the development of a loyal family spirit than any other form of cooperation. Every member of the family, even to the youngest, should sit in council, learn what are the resources of the group as a whole, and determine by joint action, guided, of course, by the more responsible and wise members, just what amounts shall be assigned for group expenditures and what for individual needs and indulgences. The ethical and social principles involved are far-reaching and the training in so-called business habits will be invaluable if the discussions are conducted with frankness and generosity and the decisions carried out with honesty and devotion.
The proper development of the aesthetic faculties and the gratification of the sense of beauty is a problem which is taking on new forms, as society is breaking away from the austere influences of earlier generations and as the means of gratifying the appeal for beauty in form and color are year by year brought within the reach of a larger number of people. The expression of a sense of beauty through wall coverings, furniture, pictures, tableware, ornaments, and other household and personal equipment affords an interesting and valuable family activity.
A great change has come within recent times in the formal religious activities of the household. Family prayers, Bible study, churchgoing, and the observance of Sunday as a day of prayer and devotion have given place to a new order. The modern problem is how to save from the wreckage that which was spiritually enriching and uplifting, while gladly breaking free from deadly formalism. Many wise leaders are giving help in this direction, especially through such agencies as the Religious Education Association, and every one interested in family welfare should be eager to make use of their suggestions.
But there are also activities without the walls of the home which appear in a new phase during these later years and whose significance must not be ignored, especially since the right use of the opportunities they offer presents an interesting problem. One form which these activities take is sometimes known under the term, "communal pleasures." The old-time husking-bee, spelling-match, sewing-circle, and singing-school have given way to organized methods of furnishing entertainment, information, or recreation, often conducted at public expense. The theatre, the library, the park, collections of art, concerts, and museums devoted to different fields of knowledge are increasing in number, attractiveness, and availability. The fact that they lure from the home fireside and tend to neglect of duties is sometimes deplored. The more intelligent attitude of mind is that which recognizes in them agencies for genuine family progress and thus uses them. Americans have in this respect much to learn from some foreign nations, notably Germany, where it is much more usual than in this country to see a whole family group find pleasure or profit in making use together of some of these communal agencies. Visits may be made together in the late afternoon, Saturdays, holidays, and even Sundays. Not merely the chance for increased information and culture, but the delight of sharing enjoyment, should make of such hours both happy memories and vital forces in group and individual growth. The dramatic sense of a younger member of the family, the taste in art or music of another, may thus be fostered and at the same time dignified with a kind of leadership, if the other members of the family are open-minded and sympathetic in their response. One most desirable reaction will inevitably be the enrichment of the conversation of the group through a common interest in more worthy subjects than neighborhood gossip, current slang, or personal grievances and whims. Another interest in which the family as a whole may well be concerned, and which will take them beyond the limits of their house walls, is the organized philanthropic work of the neighborhood. The group, including even the youngest, should recognize this responsibility and opportunity, and join in carrying some of the burdens and studying some of the problems which our present order of society presents with great insistence to all thoughtful persons. This is not only a public duty, but one which must be met if the highest welfare of the group in its inmost needs is to be attained. The method of working it out becomes a problem of no mean order in the modern household.