"She is an aged woman, but her face is serene and peaceful, though
trouble has not passed her by. She seems utterly above the little worries and
vexations, which torment the average woman and leave lines of care. The Fretful
Woman asked her one-day the secret of her happiness; and the beautiful old face
shone with joy.
"My dear,' she said, 'I keep a Pleasure Book.'
"'A Pleasure Book. Long ago I learned that there is no day so dark and
gloomy that it does not contain some ray of light, and I have made it one
business of my life to write down the little things, which mean so much to a
woman. I have a book marked for every day of every year since I left school. It
is but a little thing: the new gown, the chat with a friend, the thoughtfulness
of my husband, a flower, a book, a walk in the field, a letter, a concert, or a
drive; but it all goes into my Pleasure Book, and, when I am inclined to fret, I
read a few pages to see what a happy, blessed woman I am. You may see my
treasures if you will.
"Slowly the peevish, discontented woman turned over the book her friend
brought her, reading a little here and there. One day's entries ran thus: 'Had a
pleasant letter from mother. Saw a beautiful lily in a window. Found the pin I
thought I had lost. Saw such a bright, happy girl on the street. Husband brought
some roses in the evening.'
"Bits of verse and lines from her daily reading have gone into the
Pleasure Book of this world-wise woman, until its pages are a storehouse of
truth and beauty.
"'Have you found a pleasure for every day?' the Fretful Woman asked.
"'For every day,' the low voice answered, I had to make my theory come
true, you know.'"
The Fretful Woman ought to have stopped there, but did not; and she found
that page where it was written - "He died with his hand in mine, and my name
upon his lips." Below were the lines from Lowell: -
In one of the battles of the Crimea, a cannon-ball struck inside the
fort, crashing through a beautiful garden; but from the ugly chasm there burst
forth a spring of water which is still flowing. And how beautiful it is, if our
strange earthly sorrows become a blessing to others, through our determination
to live and to do for those who need our help. Life is not given for mourning,
but for unselfish service.
"Cheerfulness," says Ruskin, "is as natural to the heart of a man in
strong health as colour to his cheek, and wherever there is habitual gloom there
must be either bad air, unwholesome food, improperly severe labour, or erring
habits of life." It is an erring habit of life if we are not first of all
cheerful. We are thrown into a morbid habit through circumstances utterly beyond
our control, yet this fact does not change our duty toward God and toward man, -
our duty to be cheerful. We are human; but it is our high privilege to lead a
divine life, to accept the joy, which our Lord bequeathed to his disciples.
Our trouble is that we do not half will. After a man's habits are well
set, about all he can do is to sit by and observe which way he is going. Regret
it as he may, how helpless is a weak man, bound by the mighty cable of habit;
twisted from tiny threads, which he thought, were absolutely within his control.
Yet a habit of happy thought would transform his life into harmony and beauty.
Is not the will almost omnipotent to determine habits before they become
all-powerful? What contributes more to health or happiness than a strong,
vigorous will? A habit of directing a firm and steady will upon those things
which tend to produce harmony of thought will bring happiness and contentment;
the will, rightly drilled, and divinely guided, - can drive out all discordant
thoughts, and usher in the reign of perpetual harmony. It is impossible to
overestimate the importance of forming a habit of cheerfulness early in life.
The serene optimist is one whose mind has dwelt so long upon the sunny side of
life that he has acquired a habit of cheerfulness.