"What makes you Americans hurry so?" asked a distinguished foreigner, on visiting this country. "This is not living, it is merely existing."
The American people as a rule take life too seriously. They do not have half enough fun. Europeans look on our care-worn, solemn-faced people as on pieces of machinery run at forced speed and which squeak for lack of oil.
Life has become so strenuous in this country that even Edward Everett Hale, late chaplain of the United States Senate, was allowed only one minute for prayer, excepting on extraordinary occasions.
With us the hurry habit has become almost a disease. We get so accustomed to the American pace that we cannot slow down, even when we are not in a hurry. Our movements, habits, and manners give us the appearance of always being in a rush, and we hurry even when on a vacation.
Many people do not seem to know how to let themselves out unreservedly in their play. The ghost of worry or anxiety is nearly always present to mar their enjoyment, or they fear that it would not be dignified for a man to act like a boy. This keeps many men from getting the best out of their recreation. When in the country, they could derive a good lesson in healthful abandon from the young cattle or colts when they first leave the barn in the spring and are turned out to pasture. How they kick up their heels, as though they delighted in mere existence!
Notwithstanding the fact that the country has so many natural advantages of pure air, stimulating scenery, fresher and more healthful food, and freedom from the racking noises of the city, city dwellers, as a rule, do not age so rapidly and are much more cheerful than farm dwellers.
The reason for this is found in the fact that there are so many more facilities for amusement in the city than in the country. People who live in congested districts feel the need of amusement; they are hungry for fun; they live under strong pressure and they take every opportunity for easing the strenuousness of their lives.
This is why humorous plays, comic operas, and vaudeville performances generally, no matter how foolish, silly, or superficial are always well patronized. City people laugh a great deal more than country people, and everybody knows that laughter is a refresher, a rejuvenator, a success factor. They must unbend, and this fun-seeking has a great deal to do with keeping city people young and fresh after youth has passed.
What is needed is more play every day, play mixed with work. Don't take your vocation so seriously. Do not let a spurious culture keep you from laughing out loud, or from giving yourself up with abandon to the fun-loving instinct. A cheerful disposition that scorns every rebuff of fortune and laughs in the face of disaster is a divine gift. "Fate itself has to concede a great many things to the cheerful man." To be able to laugh away trouble is greater fortune than to possess the mines of King Solomon. It is a fortune, too, that is within the reach of all who have the courage and nobility of soul to keep their faces turned to the light.
As a rule, lovers of humor, great story-tellers and jokers have a wonderful power of self-refreshment and of retarding old age. People who seldom laugh, people who cannot appreciate a joke, age much faster.
An aged person ought to be serene and calm and balanced. All of the agitations and perturbations of youth ought to have ceased. A sweet dignity, a quiet repose, a calm expression should characterize people who are supposed to have had all that is richest and best out of the age in which they lived; but quite the contrary is true. In a restaurant, recently, I saw an old man who was so nervous that he could scarcely eat.
He was constantly drumming on the table with his fingers, taking hold of things and dropping them, twitching his elbows and his knees and moving his feet. Yet he was drinking the strongest coffee in order to quiet his nerves. It was really pitiable to see an old man who ought to be the very embodiment of wisdom, of dignity, and of repose, fidgeting as though he had Saint Vitus's dance, with no serenity, no balance, no physical poise.
In ancient Germany there was a law against joking. "It makes my men forget war," said the king. Sad, serious faces are seen everywhere in Christendom, "lest they forget," business, dollar-chasing.
When Denys, the light-hearted soldier of fortune in Charles Reade's "The Cloister and the Hearth," saw a friend with the blues or discouraged, he used to say: "Courage, comrade, the devil is dead!"
This is a good motto to adopt. Always take it for granted that the devil, personifying everything that is bad, disagreeable and injurious, is dead.
To ignorant, superstitious people the devil is very much alive. He has the whisk of his tail in all their amusements. But to people who have their eyes open, who think, the devil is dead.
Whatever your lot in life, keep joy with you. It is a great healer. Sorrow, worry, jealousy, envy, bad temper, create friction and grind away the delicate human machinery so that the brain loses its cunning.
Half the misery in the world would be avoided if people would make a business of having plenty of fun at home, instead of running everywhere else in search of it.
"Now for Rest and Fun" "No Business Troubles Allowed Here." These are good home-building mottoes.
When you have had a perplexing day, when things have gone wrong with you and you go home at night exhausted, discouraged, blue, instead of making your home miserable by going over your troubles and trials, just bury them; instead of dragging them home and making yourself and your family unhappy with them and spoiling the whole evening, just lock everything that is disagreeable in your office.
I know a man who casts such a gloom over his whole family, and so spoils the peace of his home by insisting upon talking over all his business troubles that his wife and children fairly dread to see him come home, because, when they see the thunder-cloud on his face, they know that their fun for the evening will be spoiled.
Just resolve that your home shall be a place for bright pictures, pleasant memories, and kindly feelings toward everybody generally. If you do this, you will be surprised to see how your vocation or business wrinkles will be ironed out in the morning and how the crooked things will be straightened. Make a business of trying to establish a model home, where every member of your family will be happy, bright, and cheerful. Fill it with bright, cheerful music.
Physicians are employing music more and more because of its wonderful healing properties. If there are no musicians in your family, get a gramophone, a piano player, or some other kind of automatic musical instrument. There is nothing like music to cheer up and enliven the home and to drive dull care, the blues and melancholy away.
Music tends to restore and preserve the mental harmony. Nervous diseases are wonderfully helped by good music. It keeps one's mind off its troubles, and gives nature a chance to heal all sorts of mental discords.
You will find that a little fun in the evening, romping and playing with the children, will make you sleep better. It will clear the physical cobwebs and brain-ash from your mind. You will be fresher and brighter for it the next day. You will be surprised to see how much more work you can do, and how much more readily you can do it if you try to have all the innocent fun you can.
We have all felt the wonderful balm, the great uplift, the refreshment, the rejuvenation which have come from a jolly good time at home or with friends, when we have come home after a hard, exacting day's work, when our bodies were jaded and we were brain-weary and exhausted. What magic a single hour's fun will often work in a tired soul! We feel as though we have had a refreshing nap. How a little fun releases us from weariness, and sends a thrill of joy and uplift through the whole being!
Laughter is as natural a form of expression as music, art, or work of any kind. We cannot be really healthy without a lot of fun.
There is something abnormal, something wrong in the parent who is annoyed by the romping, the playing, the laughter of children. The probabilities are that his or her own child-life was suppressed. The man who would not grow old must keep in touch with young life.
Do not be afraid of playing in the home. Get down on the floor and romp with the children. Never mind the clothes, the carpets, or the furniture. Just determine that you will put a good lot of fun into your life every day, let come what will.
Have all the fun you can at the table. It is a place for laughter and joking. It is a place for bright repartee. Swallow a lot of fun with your meals. The practice is splendid. It is the best thing in the world for your health. It is better than swallowing dyspepsia with every mouthful of food. The meal time ought to be looked forward to by every member of the family as an occasion for a good time, for hearty laughter, and for bright, entertaining conversation. The children should be trained to bring their best moods and say their brightest and best things at the table. If this practice were put in force it would revolutionize American homes and drive the doctors to despair.
I know a family in which joking and funny story telling at meals has become such and established feature that it is a real joy to dine with them. The dinner hour is sure to afford a jolly good time. There is a rivalry among the members of the family to see who can say the brightest, wittiest thing, or tell the best story. There is no dyspepsia, no nagging in this family.
A few hours of sunshine will do for plants what months of cloudy weather could never do. It is the sunshine that gives the delicate, inimitable tint of beauty to fruit and flower. We all require mental sunshine.
I have been in homes that were so somber and sad and gloomy that they made me feel depressed the moment I entered them. Nobody dared to say their soul was their own, and to laugh out loud was regarded almost as a misdemeanor. If the children made any noise they were told to stop, sit down, hush up, or be quiet. Everybody who attempted to have a little fun was promptly squelched.
One felt, even though it was not seen, that this sign was everywhere about the house: "No joking allowed here. Laughter forbidden. No romping or playing here. Life is too short and too serious a matter for such frivolity. Besides, the furniture might be scratched, bric-a-brac might be broken, or the children's clothes soiled or rumpled."
A little while ago I was a guest in the home of a large family where the mother was a nervous, fretful, trouble-borrowing kind of women, who neither enjoys herself nor will let others enjoy themselves. There was scarcely five minutes during my stay that she was not correcting, repressing, scolding, or nagging one of the children. It did not seem to make any difference what they were doing, she would tell them not to do it. If a child stood in an open doorway or near an open window, she was sure he would "get his death of cold." He must not eat this, he must not make a noise, he must not play; he must not do this, and he must not do that.
She kept on repressing her children in this manner throughout the evening, until they were very nervous and fretful. The result of this constant repression is that there is not a really normal child in the family. There is a sort of hungry, unsatisfied look in the faces of every one of them. They give one the impression that they long to get away from their mother and to let themselves out in laughter and play to their heart's content.
It is worse than cruel, it is a crime to crush the childhood out of any life, to suppress the fun-loving instinct, which is as natural as breathing, for no wealth or luxuries in later life can compensate for the loss of one's childhood.
We have all seen children who have had no childhood. The fun-loving element has been crushed out of them. They have been repressed and forbidden to do this and that so long that they have lost the faculty of having a good time. We see these little old men and women everywhere.
Children should be kept children just as long as possible. What has responsibility, seriousness, or sadness to do with childhood? We always feel indignant, as well as sad, when we see evidences of maturity, over-seriousness, care or anxiety in a child's face, for we know someone has sinned somewhere.
The little ones should be kept strangers to anxious care, reflective thoughts, and subjective moods.
Their lives should be kept light, bright, buoyant, cheerful, full of sunshine, joy, and gladness. They should be encouraged to laugh and to play and to romp to their heart's content. The serious side of life will come only too quickly, do what we may to prolong childhood.
One of the most unfortunate things I know of is the home that is not illuminated by at least one cheerful, bright, sunny young face, that does not ring with the persistent laughter and merry voice of a child.
No person is perfectly normal who is distressed or vexed by the playing of children. There was something wrong in your upbringing if it annoys you to see children romping, playing, and having a good time.
If there is a pitiable sight in the world, it is that of parents always suppressing their children, telling them not to laugh, or not to do this or that, until the little things actually lose the power of natural expression. Joy will go out of the life when continually suppressed.
The first duty we owe a child is to teach it to express itself, to fling out its inborn gladness and joy with as much freedom as the bobolink when it makes the whole meadow glad with its song. Laughter, absolute abandon, freedom, and happiness are essential to its health and success. These are a part of its nature. It cannot be normal without them.
Suppression of the fun-loving nature of a child means the suppression of its mental faculties. The mind will not develop normally under abnormal conditions. There is every evidence in a child's nature that play is as necessary to its normal, complete development as food, and if the fun-loving faculties are suppressed, the whole nature will be strangled. Play is as necessary to the perfect development of a child as sunshine is to the perfect development of a plant.
The childhood that has no budding and flowering, or only a partial unfolding of its petals, will have nothing but gnarled and pinched fruitage. The necessity for play in the very beginning of a child's development is shown by the fact that the instinct to play is so strong in all young life, including the entire animal kingdom.
Most homes are far too serious. Why not let the children dance and play to their heart's content? They will get rubs enough, knocks enough in the world; they will get enough of the hard side of life later. Resolve that they shall at least be just as happy as you can make them while at home, so that if they should have unfortunate experiences later, they can look back upon their home as a sweet, beautiful, charming oasis in their life; the happiest spot on earth.
Let them give vent to all that is joyous and happy in their natures, and they will blossom out into helpful men and women instead of sedate, suppressed, sad, melancholy natures. Spontaneity, buoyancy, the bubbling over of animal spirits are worth everything in one's education. Children who are encouraged in self-expression of their play instinct will make better business men and women, better professional people, better men and better women in any walk of life. They will succeed better and have a better influence in the world than those who are repressed.
Only the happiest children can make the happiest and most useful citizens. You cannot give children too much heart sunshine, too much love. They thrive on fun. It is their normal food and the home is the place above all others where they should get an abundance of it. Someone has said that if you want to ruin your children let them think that all mirth and enjoyment must be left on the threshold when they come home at night. When once the home is regarded only as a place in which to eat, drink, and sleep, the work is begun which often ends in degradation.
Children who have no childhood often develop hard, cold, unsocial dispositions which are a great handicap to their success later in life.
A happy childhood is an imperative preparation for a happy maturity. The disposition, the cast of mind, the whole life tendencies are fixed in childhood. An early habit of cheerfulness—the fun-loving habit—has a powerful influence over the mature man and woman and their career.
A happy childhood is the best possible protection against ill-health, unhappiness and failure; the best possible protection against development of handicapping peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, and even insanity. A large percentage of the people in the insane asylums did not have a happy childhood.
It is of immense importance to teach children to avoid unpleasant, disagreeable, soul-harrowing books. Keep them from reading morbid stories, morbid descriptions of crime and misery in the newspapers. Do not let these black pictures etch their hideous forms into their tender, sensitive minds.
Children should be taught the art of getting enjoyment out of the common things of life. This will prevent the development of a restless tendency, a disposition always to think that they would be happier if they were only somewhere else, under other conditions.
If you want your children to be well, strong, and happy, try to cultivate the sense of humor, the fun instinct, in them just as much as possible. Teach children to laugh at their misfortunes and to see the ludicrous side of unpleasant things which cannot be avoided or ignored.
"Mirth is God's medicine; give the children a lot of it." Blessed indeed are the Joy Makers.
I once knew a little girl who was so happy that she asked her mother if she could say Good-morning to God. She used to say Good-morning to the sun, and she naturally thought, and rightly, that she ought to say Good-morning to her Creator.
All the members of the mental family, all our faculties, are dependent upon their harmony for their helpfulness and efficiency. If they are unhappy their efficiency is seriously impaired. Discouragement, worry, anxiety, fear, anything which makes them abnormal, practically ruins their efficiency.
On the other hand, whatever tends to encouragement, to cheerfulness and good humor, whatever brightens hope and brings good cheer, multiplies their efficiency.
There is no other one thing which so buoys up the faculties and refreshes the whole being of man as good, innocent fun. The enormous success of the theatrical business is based largely upon the instinctive demand in human nature for amusement.
When this demand in us is gratified, the whole man is improved, enlarged; is more healthy, more efficient, more normal; but when it is denied, as it was among many of the Puritans in our early history, there is a famine in the nature, the faculties shrivel, and the whole character deteriorates.
It is a great thing to encourage fun in the home. There is nothing like a fun-loving home. It keeps children off the street, it discourages vice and all that is morbid. The fun-loving faculties in many children are never half developed; hence the melancholy traits, the tendency to sadness, moroseness, morbidness, which we see in men and women everywhere. These are not normal. They are indications of stifled, suppressed, dwarfed natures.
Many parents have a great idea of being stern, not realizing that suppression means strangling growth, stifling aspiration, dwarfing ideals. There can be no real growth, enlargement of faculties, where there is no freedom of expression.
The child that has been trained to be happy, that has been allowed free expression to their fun-loving nature, will not have a sad or gloomy disposition. Much of the morbid mentality which we see everywhere is due to stifled childhood.
Soul sunshine keeps everything within us sweet, pure, like the material sun which destroys the miasma. It antidotes the poisons caused from worry, jealousy, and the explosive passions. It preserves us from becoming soured on life.
A pessimistic, crotchety disposition, a fault-finding, finical disagreeable mind sours everything in life. Pessimism is darkness. Things do not thrive or ripen, become sweet or beautiful, in the dark. It requires the sun of optimism to bring out soul-beauty and to ripen and sweeten the juices of life. The tendency of pessimism is to sour, to distort one's way of looking at things.
What makes us happiest makes us most efficient? Happiness is the great lubricator of life which keeps the wheels from creaking, which prevents the grinding, wearing effect caused by discord.
How much stronger, clearer brained, and more efficient we feel after we have had a real jolly good time! How it refreshes, renews, and restores our flagging energies!
If you carry about a gloomy face, you advertise the fact that hope has died out of you; that life has been a disappointment to you.
The habit of frequent and hearty laughter will not only save you many a doctor's bill, but will also save you years of life.
Laughter is a foe to pain and disease, a sure cure for the blues and melancholy. Be cheerful and you will make everybody around you happier and healthier.
Laughter and good cheer make love of life, and love of life is half of health.
Laughter keeps the heart and face young and enhances physical beauty.