Encouragement in the Home
Yes, among the husband and wife. Why should they not speak kindly of each other? the voice of commendation is sweet, doubly sweet from the lips of those we love. It chills the best feelings, and weakens the highest aspirations — when continuous and sacrificing effort calls forth no kindly return — no words of cheer, of encouragement. The snow is ever unimpressible in the deep, hollow, recesses of the mountain cliff, where no straggling beam of merry sunshine melts it with kisses; cold and white it sleeps in perpetual shadow, until its soft roundness congeals into ice. And so the heart, if forced to abide in the shadow of frowns, under the continual dropping of hard, unkindly words — will assimilate itself to its mate, and become a sad and listless heart, lying heavily and cold in the bosom which should be all filled with glowing sympathies.
Husbands often do not know with what ceaseless solicitude the duties of a wife and mother are accompanied. They leave home early, many of them; the routine of business, the same as it was yesterday, and will be months to come, is so thoroughly digested that the performance is measurably without annoyance. They have no wearing household work to do, no fretting little ones hanging on to their garments, now to nurse, now to correct, now to instruct, while still the dusting, and the cleansing, and the preparing of food, must be going on, and the little garments must be nicely fitted and made, or all would be untidiness and confusion. Yet how many an adroit wife contrives to get through with all this, willing — if she is but appreciated, and her valuable services esteemed — to endure, calmly, the trials incident to her lot, keeping care from her pleasant face by a merry spirit and cheerful demeanor.
But if she never hears the kindly "I thank you," or beholds the beautiful smile that unuttered gratitude spreads upon the countenance of him for whom she has forsaken all — what immeasurable anguish will she not experience?
We have often thought how poignant must be the grief, how heavy the disappointment of the young wife, when she first learns that the husband of her choice is totally indifferent to her studied efforts to please him. He has many times, in former days, praised the glossy beauty of her sunny hair, and curled its rings of gold around his fingers. He has gazed in her face until it is stamped upon the tablets of his heart, yet, through utter thoughtlessness, he forgets now that it has been such a charm of goodness and purity to him, or old associations have made him too much their own, to play the lover after the solemn words of ceremony are spoken. He has given her his honor, and a home; his name, his means; what more can she want?
As gayly as the bird upon the tree by her doorside, does she go carolling about her work. The day seems one long year — but still, twilight does come, and she awaits the return of her husband. He has perhaps but slender resources; he is a laboring man, and their cottage is humble and low-roofed. How light is her step; how happy her brow! Like a skillful painter she has touched and re-touched all the slender luxuries of her home, until they seem to her like the adornings of a paradise. She has taste, refinement, a quick perception of the delicate and beautiful — though perhaps she never painted the outlines of a single flower, or elicited sweet sounds from harp or piano.
The hearth is bright and red — not a speck of dust is visible. She has brought out all her hoarded wealth, and the tables, the newly-varnished bureau, and the arm-chair back, shine in snowy garniture. She has placed the little pictures in the best light, and made all things look cheerful and bright. She has placed a bouquet of brilliant flowers upon the neat supper-table, and another in the little fire-place — and with pleasant anticipations she awaits his return.
"How cheerful everything looks!" she murmurs; "and how pleased he will be! He will commend my care and taste!"
Presently the well-known step draws near; she flies with a happy smile to meet him, and together they enter their mutual home.
What! no sign of appreciation? no new delight on his features!
Does he receive all her attention, as a matter of course? something looked for, expected, easily done, and without price? Can he not pay her the tribute of a glad smile? Alas! he does not believe in praise. His wife must be unselfish; must look upon these performances as stern duties; if he praises her now, and forget to praise again, they may be discontinued.
She is disappointed and chagrined; and unless taste and perfect neatness are indispensable to her own comfort — she gradually wearies in well-doing — when a little kindly encouragement, a little praise, might have stimulated her to constant exertion.
Many a wife becomes careless of her appearance, because of her husband's indifference. Now, in the simple matter of dress — not so simple, either — how often men think it beneath their notice to approve the choice of their companions! We once remarked to a gentleman, that his wife displayed most admirable taste in her attire, and what think you was his answer? With a sigh we record it: "Has she? well, now, I would hardly know whether she had on a wash-gown or a satin dress." We involuntarily disliked him; and thought that the expression upon the countenance of his partner spoke volumes.
Now we do like to see a husband notice such things, even to particularity. We like to hear him give his opinion as to whether such and such a thing is becoming to his wife. We are pleased to see a father interested in the little purchases of his children, one who never says with a frown, "Oh! go away; I don't care for such things; suit yourselves."
And in household concerns, the husband should express his approbation of neatness and order; he should be grateful for any little effort that may have been put forth to add to his comfort or pleasure; he should commend the good graces of his wife, and at fitting times make mention of them. Indeed, not one spouse alone, but both should reciprocate the good offices of the other. We never esteemed a woman the less on hearing her say, "I have a good husband;" we never thought a man lacking in dignity who spoke of his wife as being dear to him, or quoted her amiability or industry as worthy of example before others. Who does not esteem the sincere praise of a husband or a wife, above that of all others? No motive but love induces either spouse to
"Speak the gentle words
Which sink into the heart."
Solomon says, "Her husband praises her;" and only the morose and ungrateful, who care not to fill the fount of kindliness by pleasant words, differ from the sacred writer.
How many a home have we seen glittering with external splendor — where polished marble gives a silent welcome to the entering guest; where on the walls hang votive offerings of art which fill the whole soul with their beauty; where the plush carpets yield to the lightest pressure, and the rich decorations crimson the palest cheek! Yet amidst all this show and adorning, has the proud wife sat, just another piece furniture there — for so her husband regards her. Formal and stern, he has thrown around her the drapery of his chill heart, and it has folded about her like marble. She is "my lady," and nothing more. No outbursts of affection in the form of sweet praise fall upon her ears — yet pendants of diamonds drop therefrom, but their shining is like his love — very cold. We have heard such a one say, in times gone by, "all this wealth, all this show and pride of station — I would resign, for one word of praise from my husband. He never relaxes from the loftiness which has made him feared among men; he never speaks to me but with measured accents, though he surrounds me with luxuries."
We wondered not, that a stifled sob closed the sentence. Who had not rather live in a cottage, through which the winds revels, and the rain leaks through the roof — with one in whose heart dwell impulses the holiest in our nature, one who is not ashamed or afraid to give fitting commendation — than in the most gorgeous of earthly palaces, with a companion whose lips are sealed forever to the expression of fondness, sympathy, and praise?