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THE CHEERFUL GIVER
“The Lord loveth a cheerful giver”; and so do we all. Especially is this true of those who give us their opinions. Perhaps one might say that it is only when these unsolicited donations are made in a cheerful manner that they are tolerated. When a person offers us a piece of his mind, we suspect him of hostile intent. The history of the word “gratuitous” is enlightening. Its primary definition is, “freely bestowed or obtained; costing nothing.” Its secondary meaning is, "unnecessary, uncalled for; as, a gratuitous insult.”
In a certain sense all expression of opinion is gratuitous. It is uncalled for. Especially is this true if the opinion offered conflicts with one which is already held. People usually prefer their own opinions to those that are recommended by outsiders. They may not be of the most advanced kind, but they are more comfortable to live with.
The insistence on cheerfulness does not apply to professional advisers like lawyers, doctors,
architects, engineers, and the like. These experts do not give us their advice: they allow us to buy it from them. We do not expect them to be in high spirits when we go to them in office hours. Even though they be "sad-hearted men much overgone with care,” we accept their opinions meekly. We will allow a psychoanalyst with austere countenance to tell us the most devastating truths about ourselves. But let no candid friend offer us the same information gratuitously.
Let all idealists, reformers, philanthropists, friendly visitors, people with causes they wish to promote, and all who would give good advice without charging a fee, remember this. There is a temperamental quality needed to make their gifts acceptable. Chaucer's Clerke of Oxenforde in spite of his solemn ways, had learned the secret: "gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche." Even the Wife of Bath would tolerate his didacticism when she saw how much pleasure he got out of it.
This is not to say that we should give a hearing only to those who insist on looking always on the bright side of things. The dark side must be faced also, but we do not care for the mind that
sheds new darkness upon it. A defeatist is never so unwelcome as when the tide of battle is going against us. The facts are threatening enough, but why surrender to them so abjectly?
The leaders of forlorn hopes are never found among men with dismal minds. There must be a natural resiliency of temper which makes them enjoy desperate ventures. Ignatius Loyola, who had an uncanny skill in picking winners in the race for martyrdom, was always on the lookout for high-spirited young men with a keen zest for life. When he heard that a young Spaniard, Francis Xavier, was astonishing Paris by his gayety, he spared no pains to convert him. He was just the man he was looking for. He wanted some one to go through shipwrecks and famines and persecutions as one who rejoiced in tribulation.
The biographers of Xavier, while narrating his unparalleled sufferings, find the miraculous element in his constant good cheer. He set forth on the missionary enterprise from which he was never to return “light of heart and joyful in discourse.
e.” When others wept, we are told, "the countenance of Xavier alone beamed with delight.” On the overcrowded and fever-stricken