“A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance.” (Proverbs 15:13)
Once I looked upon the face of a dear little boy whose bright eyes and sunny smiles cheered my heart. I asked him what his name might be, and he answered, “Papa calls me ‘Sunshine John.’ ” Then I knew that the merry smile I saw was, as I thought, an index to the sunny little heart. Any home is blessed if it has a sunshine maker.
Every girl owes it to herself and to her associates to be sunny. A happy girlhood is so beautiful that it cannot afford to be spoiled by needless frowns and pouts. There are clouds enough in life without making them out of temper. A girl who is full of smiles and sunshine is a fountain of joy to all who know her. The world has enough of tears and sorrow at best, and her sweet, smiling face can scatter untold clouds. Could a girl ask for a better calling than that of a joy maker for all about her?
Every girl must meet her share of bumps in life. If they do not come soon, they must come late. It is impossible that she should pass through life in the sunshine all the time. She must have her share of shadow. She cannot escape it. But it is not the deep shadows that generally cloud a girl’s life and make her unhappy and sullen. It is the little things, insignificant in themselves, and which could have been passed by with hardly a thought if resisted one by one, that irritate the temper and mar the happiness. Every day our girl will meet with circumstances in which she has her choice between frowning and sending back a stinging retort, or smiling and passing them by with a kind word. If she can pass these little bumps and keep sweet, then she has mastered the art of being sunny.
Betty is working at the kitchen sink and by some mischance spills water on the floor. Mother is tired, and has perhaps only just finished mopping, and she speaks up quickly, reproving Betty: “Betty, you careless girl, can you not do anything without making a mess?” Now is Betty’s chance. She can frown and send back an angry rejoinder as she flounces out of the room, leaving her mother sorry for her own impatience and grieved at Betty’s hatefulness; or Betty can look up with a smile and say, “I’m truly sorry, Mother, that I was so awkward, but you will see that I can set it right.” The smile that will come to Mother’s face will be reward enough to Betty for her soft answer. Or, again, when the smaller children are cross and fretful, Betty can become cross also, scolding and threatening till she increases the uproar; or she can begin a romp or story, and turn their minds into new and pleasant channels. But before Betty can do this she must have control of herself, and a bit of sunshine in her heart.
If our girl can leave home every morning for her school or work, with a song in her heart and a smile on her lips, and be ready with a bright “good morning” for each friend she meets, and an encouraging smile for the old or ill or those otherwise in need of encouragement, then she has found a sphere of usefulness that will make many people bless her.
There is a real art in smiling. Some people smile, or grin, all the time, and it becomes monotonous to those who look at them. These grinning people never seem to think whom or what their smile is for. It is as if their mouths were made in that form. Other people have the kind of smile upon their faces that suggests sarcasm. But there are still others, and I have met girls who had mastered the art, whose smiles are tear chasers. There is something so understanding in their glance and smile, that they make you feel that they care for you and want you to be happy. Sometimes when I have been discouraged or depressed by trials all my own, a bright, hopeful smile from someone has cheered me amazingly. In fact, we are very much dependent upon each other for courage and happiness. Then let us be dispensers of joy as we go through life, smiling and glad. If I am in trouble, having acted foolishly in something or other, then I do not appreciate the grinning smile. I would rather the face that looked into mine would express a little understanding and feeling for my trouble, or that it would not notice my foolishness at all; when I find a friend who can meet me this way, then that friend becomes a real comfort and joy.
Smiles and gladness are like sweet peas in that the more you gather and give away the more you have. Leave your sweet peas on the vines, and the flowers are soon gone; but gather them closely each day and they will blossom the more and last the summer through. If you save your smiles for special occasions, when there are joys abroad, you will nearly run out of them, but give them out at every opportunity and the joy vines of your heart will thrive and grow.
Live in the sunshine. Look on the bright side, for there is always a bright side. No matter how a girl is situated in life, she can find something to be thankful for. If she is the daughter of a poor father, she is saved many of the temptations that come to the rich, and she has many opportunities for helping in burden bearing at home. If she is a daughter of the rich, many opportunities for doing good are open that never come to the poor girl. Is she strong and well? She then has a heritage that can be used to good advantage in this busy world, but if she is weak and frail her life can brighten the home. Often the sick one is the most cheery of the family, in spite of her pain. Everyone can be a sunshine bearer. God smiles on all who are willing to carry His smiles on to others.
In one home the daughter is a willing helper, ready to do all that her young hands can do to lighten the load, and she is a constant blessing to her mother, but she forgets to carry with her a cheery, sunny smile. Her heart becomes vexed and unpleasant, and her words sharp and cutting. The little ones watch Sister’s face to see if she is cross. Mother’s gentle voice often has to speak to her in soothing tones, “Daughter, I know you are tired, but do not make it unpleasant for the little ones. We have much to do, but love lightens it all the way.” How often I have wished that to her other graces this dear girl would add sunshine.
The faces of our friends are like mirrors. We can look into them and see the expression of our own face. If we come to them smiling, we see a smile in return; but if we meet them with a frown, they will frown back at us. Try catching the eye of one who is looking sad and out of sorts and meeting her look with a smile, and see if it will not soon answer back in her face.
Especially when children are to be dealt with, it is necessary to learn to smile and be pleasant; for if you come to them cross, they will be cross in return. Be cheery, sunny, and happy, both for your own good time, and for the sake of others.
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