(Written years ago, when my children were younger. It still works the same way!)
It was one of those days. The sun never came out. It was cloudy, cold and gray, with the foreboding of a storm. The baby was pulling at her ears and crying—sick again. The little ones squabbled over every imaginable injustice. Homeschool was far from “homey”. I was without a car, but with a long list of errands that had to be done. My scripture study and planning time had to be set aside, as the baby wouldn’t nap but wanted to be held. Laundry was backing up so badly that everyone was wondering if they’d have clean clothes tomorrow. I could go on, telling you my woes. Bleak, very bleak.
Things could have gone from bad to worse, but I had one of those rare experiences in which I saw in glaring reality that we create our own happiness by our attitude. As dinner time approached, I had even more to gripe about, but I put on some fun, lively music and involved the children in work. We cleaned up the living room, set the table, and did chores that had never been finished in the morning’s awful gloom. No one was smiling or eager…yet. But I sang along to the music and rallied the children to make a super dinner. We peeled apples and made an apple crisp. Then we dove into making casseroles. We set the table with fancy goblets. The children took turns rocking the baby in the midst of the busy preparations with the upbeat music playing.
By the time Daddy and my teenage boys came home from work late (… it always happens on those days!), the dining room was bright and full of delicious smells. Immediately they picked up on the happy spirit and willingly helped with the final meal preparations. We enjoyed being together and no one even complained that the dinner was over an hour late.
A small thing. How different it could have been! I felt I had plenty of reasons to complain. Most wives and mothers come to learn before too long that their attitude is contagious. I have often wanted to moan, “Can’t I just have a bad day without everyone else borrowing it?” It seems that the family members pick up on mother’s attitude and transfer it into their own personal feelings about the day. If I am overworked, my husband feels he has worked far too hard, too. If I am too tired to make dinner, every other member of my family seems to be exhausted! I can’t even sit down during chore time without finding myself surrounded by others who just need to “sit down a minute!” And so it is with having a happy countenance. It passes on to each child and to our husbands like wildfire. Even a conscious effort can’t prevent it from transferring!
The woman is the center of the home, just as the hub of a wheel. She cannot have a bad day without influencing the whole family. And just the same, her cheerfulness or enthusiasm spreads quickly through the family.
How long and how much effort does it take to turn and look your loved ones in the eye and smile when they come home? Such a little thing. How much energy does it take to for a moment look at their sweet faces and say something positive to your little ones? What a pittance of a price. What keeps us from doing these things? Preoccupation? Laziness? What?
Victor Hugo, in his novel, Toilers of the Sea, speaks of the heroine Deruchette: “Her presence lights the home; her approach is like a cheerful warmth; she passes by, and we are content; she stays awhile and we are happy. Is it not a thing of divine, to have a smile which, none know how, has the power to lighten the weight of that enormous chain that all the living in common drag behind them? Deruchette possessed this smile; we may say that this smile was Deruchette herself.”
Later, he philosophizes: “There is in this world no function more important than that of being charming—to shed joy around, to cast light upon dark days, to be the golden thread of our destiny and the very spirit of grace and harmony. Is not this to render a service?”
I believe there can be no more important job than to cast cheer on dark days, spreading sunshine, and lifting those who live with you, and who work with you. It seems a small thing, but those moments add to make up a lifetime, and an eternity. A happy attitude draws others like a magnet. They enjoy the feeling. They long to be around it. Mothers, we have the power to dispel gloom! Let’s remember . . . let’s use it!