Book Title: The Real Home
“Are we, then, to have no pleasure at all?” This exclamation will be heard from those who read the indictment against the popular, exciting amusements of the day.
“What shall we do?” questions another.
Not less recreation, but more, may well be our motto. We need more playtime, less working time. Many shopgirls, factory workers, business men confined in offices, women in kitchens and workrooms, young people who should not work all the time, the boys and girls in school, - these and many others need recreation – re-creation – that will rest, restore, and freshen both body and mind.
But many so-called pleasures do not furnish true relaxation. They excite, stimulate, and consume the bodily vigor we already have, but do not create anew either mind or body. They do not invigorate, and give renewed strength for future labor.
“SHAM, SHAM, SHAM!”
George Wharton James, noted lecturer and author, has this to say concerning popular amusements:
“I firmly believe that one of the greatest curses of our present day is that people are saturated with a love for the wrong kind of pleasure. They are amusement mad. They long for cheap, tawdry, sensational, untrue, sham shows. The highest are as worthless as the lowest; the fantasies of the grand opera and the theater are as foolish, unreal, unsatisfying as the nickel vaudeville or moving-picture show of the very poor.”
But there is pleasure that is not all sham and make-believe. It refreshes and re-creates mind and body. The Christian will seek only such pleasures as he knows his Master approves. He will not go where the One he serves will not accompany him.
The Christian Commonwealth has given the following list of questions by which to test our pleasures:
“Do your recreations rest and strengthen or weary and weaken the body?
“Do they rest and strengthen or weary and weaken the brain?
“Do they make resistance to temptation easier or harder?
“Do they increase or lessen love for virtue, purity, temperance, and justice?
“Do they give inspiration and quicken enthusiasm, or stupefy the intellectual and harden the moral nature?
“Do they increase or diminish respect for manhood and womanhood?
“Do they draw you nearer to, or remove you farther from, the Christ?” …
To these excellent thoughts we may add the Scripture rule, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
In time of war, it is unsafe for a soldier to be found on the enemy’s territory, even though very near his own line. He must not pass the boarder line. Questionable amusements are the devil’s territory. The Christian is unsafe who indulges in them.
A young woman wished to enter a coal mine. With others, she was about to descend, when her friends noticed she was wearing a spotlessly white dress. The cautioned her that such attire was inappropriate for the occasion. Greatly displeased at their remarks, she turned to a grimy miner who was to act as guide, and petulantly inquired, “Can’t I wear a white dress into the mine?”
“Yes, mum,” he replied; “there’s nothing to hinder you from wearing a white dress down there, but there will be considerable to keep you from wearing one back.”
Our games and pleasures must not blacken the soul. Questionable amusements produce questionable characters. We cannot afford such transformation. Not only may our own souls be blackened, but our influence and example will stain other lives.
COMPANIONSHIP BETWEEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN IN PLEASURE
In many homes, the question of amusements is a testing one. Parents who have experienced it, know the pleasure it give their children when father and mother play with them and share their amusements. This companionship is one of the most precious we ever experience. It may be maintained as long as we live together, if we begin soon enough. But those who leave the children to devise their own sports, who have not time to plan and join with them, who say, “Go away and don’t bother me; I am too busy,” – such parents will not be invited to share the pleasures of the children when the children become young people, though he would give much for the privilege.
SOME HOME PLEASURES
There are games in which all can join. Games of chance, which would lead to gambling, are to be discarded; but those which develop thought and skill, and which impart useful information, are to be encouraged.
And there is real pleasure in studying together. Father or mother can often give a suggestion which will save prolonged study, and conserve the time of the student. If difficult problems are studied together, thus establishing comradeship between the older and younger members of the family, there will not be so much living apart.
Let the family “get together.” If all work, then all can play; and parents are as much entitled to relaxation as are their children. The game or “good time” promised when tasks are finished will be an incentive to faithfulness and efficiency in service.
“THE HOME CLUB”
In an adapted story, this dialogue takes place:
Tom: Hello, Jack! Coming out to-night?
Jack: No, Tom, I can’t come to-night. I have a date.
Tom: That so? Where?
Jack: Home club.
Tom: Say, that’s a new one, isn’t it? Where does it meet?
Jack: At my house.
Tom: Who belongs to it?
Jack: My father and mother, brother Bob, sister Nellie, and I.
Tom: Huh! That’s a great club. What’s the idea?
Jack: The object is to enrich the home life of the family and to develop a deeper sympathy and understanding between us.
Tom: Sounds good enough. Tell me more about it.
Jack: Well, you see, we’re all connected with so many organizations, they keep us busy most of the time, and we’re not home much evenings. Take it all in all, we’re hardly at home together except for meals.
Mother was reading to us about a man who was out so much he said he didn’t feel at home with his family, and when it was not necessary for him to be out, he would go to the club, where he felt better acquainted than he did with his own kith and kin. That gave mother the idea for the Home Club. She said unless we had something like that, we would have to be introduced to each other before long.
One night when it was raining so we did not care to go out, mother suggested her plan. We set aside one night a week when we agreed to stay at home and get acquainted. If something came up so all could not be at home in the evening, we were to set apart an hour after supper for the meeting of the club. We all agreed to it, and Thursday was named as the night best for all of us.
We organized right there, and laid our plans for meetings. We’ve met regularly every since. This is Thursday, and that’s why I can’t go with you to-night.
Tom: That’s a good reason, sure. If it isn’t a secret, I’d like to know what the meetings are like.
Jack: We usually begin with music. Nellie looks after that; and when she finds a good piece, she brings it home. If it is for piano, she plays it; and if it’s vocal, we all sing until we learn it.
After that, we have fifteen minutes for stories and experiences. Each tells some good story he has read or heard, or some interesting experience of the week. At one time, father met a Russian who told him many interesting things we had not seen in the papers about that country. We often save good stories for the club instead of telling them when we first hear them.
Next we discuss some point of interest, and we all express our opinions. Sometimes we have a chapter from some good book. The last part of the meetings we call the “Problem Hour,” when we speak about anything that troubles us. Sometimes I read my English essay, or ask advice about a problem in arithmetic; sometimes father has a business problem that bothers him. These are talked over, and each one has a chance to offer suggestions bout the problems that have come up.
After that, we spend the last fifteen minutes in a prayer service. We read a chapter in the Bible that seems to fit what we have been discussing, then each offers a short, simple prayers. We close by singing a hymn.
Family reading is a delightful pastime. The best reader need not always be elected to read aloud, but the younger people who can read fairly well may be called on, and thus receive training in correct pronunciation and enunciation. The reading may occupy a pleasant half hour or more after study and tasks are finished, and thus become a real pleasure. …
Sometimes current events and their meaning may be discussed, and countries and cities located on the map. Scrapbooks may be made, and the time when this is done might be called the “pastry evening.”
There will also be days and evenings when families may unite for social pleasure. Afternoons or evenings spent in some home where all can meet together may be profitable. It will not be difficult to hold an entertainment that will combine fun and frolic with that which is uplifting and instructive. Such occasions would be doubly beneficial if several families would unite and visit some river, lake, or mountain, taking their refreshments and spending a day in the open air, with the works of nature about them.
Why not ask the young people to entertain their older friends occasionally? It would be a kindly act especially to invite those who may have but few social pleasures, those who are old and feeble, or such as may be financially distressed. An afternoon or evening that is not too hilarious would be greatly enjoyed by them. Some of the old songs could be sung for the old people who heard them many years ago. Those who have lost their friends would appreciate the kindly attentions of those who are young and buoyant in spirit.
In social gatherings, often one of the first considerations is, “What shall we have to eat?” This sometimes causes those who entertain, expense and labor that can ill be afforded. It is known that the guests will come for the “eats.”
Would it not be better, on most occasions, to provide entertainment for the mind instead of the stomach? Most persons desire to be hospitable, and to entertain their friends in such a way as will promote their enjoyment; but surely there are ways to entertain without providing food that is unnecessary and unhealthful. It is time to educate ourselves to higher pleasures than those afforded at the table.
One young woman, on returning from a social, said: “That was one of the most delightful socials I ever attended. No one had to sweat over refreshments. How much nicer that was!”
All might not agree with these remarks; but some are trying to overcome the idea that the refreshments are the most important part of a social evening. Some who might be excellent entertainers have but few social functions, because they feel unable to provide this feature, which is thought by many to be indispensable.
None should understand, from what has been said, that occasions never come when refreshments should be served. Fruit in season is delicious, and harmless to most persons. Fruit drinks are also acceptable; but health and simplicity are appropriate watchwords while we are considering what the refreshments shall be. It is the good taste in serving, the kindness of heart, that give charm, more than a great variety, large quantity, or expensive provision.
BIRTHDAYS AND ANNIVERSARIES
Such occasions may be made both profitable and pleasant. When the boys and girls find that their birthdays are celebrated as days of thankfulness and joy, they do not soon forget them.
It does not seem advisable to bestow a great many presents on holidays or anniversaries, for they have a tendency to cultivate selfishness, and cause the recipients to miss the real spirit that should enter into such celebrations.
Would it not be more profitable to direct the mind to the thankfulness that should be felt for life, and to the privilege of being a blessing to others? A birthday letter or poem expressing the love and hopes of parent and other friends would be treasured in future years. This is not to say that there should be no special entertainment or presents; but these should not be made the principle feature, that which receives most thought and attention.
All need to learn the lesson that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The greater joy comes from entertaining, not in being entertained; in giving, rather than in receiving.
All the “good times” of family life need not be confined to the home. Change of environment is helpful to all. A trip to the mountains, to lake, forest, or ocean beach, has charm. Not all homes are situated where nature is most attractive; but there is usually some form of sport, some locality, that may form the objective of a pleasant trip. If enjoyed by the whole family together, it may be a blessing to all.
Some parents suffer anxiety on account of their children’s being subject to almost every ailment that is the foe of childhood. One mother in a family of this kind went for advice to a friend. It was found that these youngsters were so overfed, overcoddled, and overheated that they had become like hothouse plants, and every exposure brought on headache, stomachache, colds, croup, and sore throat. There were so many illnesses that called for the service of a physician, that the family revenue was depleted, and the parents were worn out with care and anxiety.
The friend gave this advice, which is worth passing on:
“Give the children three meals a day of nothing but the simplest food. Take off the shoes and stockings, and let them run out of doors every possible hour of the day. Provide them with blue denim or some other rough clothing, so that you will not value their clothes more than you value the children. Pay no attention if they stay out when it rains, except to dry and thoroughly warm them when they come in. Never allow them to eat between meals, and give them as light a meal as possible at night. Never urge them when they do not want food. Better let them fast three days absolutely, than urge them to eat one meal they do not want. Whenever and wherever possible, let them sleep out of doors.”
A month after this advice began to be followed, the parents found their ills and worries gone. The children were rugged and well. So much had been saved, and the prospect was so flattering for further saving, from what had been formerly paid for doctor’s bills, that the family planned to take a trip through several states in a camp wagon, thus securing months of playtime for them all. Who could measure the health and satisfaction resulting from such a trip!
Not all can take such an excursion as that, however; but shorter vacations can be arranged. And where possible, let the whole family go together. If they camp out in some attractive spot in God’s great out of doors, the gain will be great. Frequent short vacations of this character are better than one long one of weeks or months. …
Some devices at home will help in living the outdoor life. To the children, these will be a joy forever. A pole like a Maypole, with ropes instead of ribbons, will develop the chest and lungs of delicate little folks, as they hang on and swing.
A small tent makes a fine playhouse. A swing is a strength developer. A pile of sand, a little garden plot, - these, and others, are all sources of innocent enjoyment.
True pleasure, genuine recreation, that clears the cobwebs from the brain and strengthens body and mind, - these are not found in stuffy theaters, dark picture shows, the dance halls, or at the gaming table. In nature’s halls in the lofty forest, by lake or beach or stream, we may “become as little children.” To drink in the beauty of sky, mountain, and valley, to wander among the flowers and grasses and trees in the fresh air and sunshine, will re-create and restore.
Shall we learn to play well and be companionable with our children? To drink together of the pleasure provided by a loving Father in His world of nature is the best recreation of all.