But however much the home may have done in enriching the institutions and life of society, and however great may be its importance to the nation, its deepest significance lies in its personal meaning. Its sweets and wealth, and finest flavour and fragrance, are not for the nation, but for those whose personal life centres there. The effects upon the nation are indispensably vital. Yet they seem really incidental when compared with the effect in the individual life. Of course, the two are inextricably intermingled, for the individual makes the nation.
The home is the holy of holies of a man's life. There he may shut himself in from all the world. There he comes in from the cold and strength-sapping strife and work of the outer world. He warms himself at love's fires. He renews his strength in love's atmosphere. He rests both spirit and body in love's faith and confidences. It is his starting-point out on his errands in the world, and his returning and retiring place for the nourishing of his life afresh.
It is of keen interest to note that, while in most languages the word for "home" means a place, or a group of places, or a village; in the Dutch of the Hollanders, sister language to our own, the word used has, in some of its forms, the meaning of "private," "secret." It penetrates into the house after the purpose and power that are inside. It is suggestive to us Americans, who have gotten so much from brave Holland in national ideals and organization, that this little land of homes, with its home-loving queen herself nursing her babe these days, should have so much of the inner finer meaning of home embedded in its language. And hoary-headed old Sanskrit, mother to so many of our languages, has in its word for home the meaning of "place of rest," "security."
The word home is commonly used merely for a place. The house in which a family lives is called a home. But we want to remember the finer meaning of the word, and to add to its fineness by the emphasis of our own life. It is true that home is a place. The place is essential to the home. But it is a sad loss when the thought of place tells all of the meaning the word may have to some. A house, with people living in it, who are kin to each by the accident of birth—that is all the word seems to mean sometimes. And there is a strong swirl of the wind in to-day's life that acts like suction upon the home, sucking out the sweet, rich heart, and leaving only the outer shell, the place.
But home is more than a place. It is an ideal; and more yet, an ideal being worked out, in varying degree, into the real. It was surely more than a place to the little child of whom this story is told:
"I found her on the corner,
A maid of three short years;
Her head a mass of tangled curls,
Her blue eyes filled with tears.
'Where do you live, my little maid?
I fear you've wandered far—'
She looked at me and, sobbing, said,
'I live with my Mama.'
"I took her in my arms and tried
To soothe her childish woe.
'But where does Mama live?' I asked.
'Perhaps the street you know?'
She gazed at me—no sorrow now
The childish face did mar—
'Why, don't you know?' she wondering said,
'She lives with my Papa!'
"'Oh, little maid! Oh, little maid!'
I cried in my despair,
'Your Mama lives with your Papa,
And they both live—pray, where?'
She tossed the mass of tangled curls
And laughed aloud with glee—
'My Mama lives with my Papa,
And they both live with me!'" (M.) N.) S.), in Little Folks' Magazine.)
That home is an ideal, and a very sweet one, was unconsciously revealed by the little maid's artless replies.
Home is an atmosphere that pervades the whole spirit of a man's life, even as the outer atmosphere fills his lungs, and affects his blood, and his whole physical life. Home is where love lives, and reigns, and trains. It is the outer abiding-place of the finest friendship. The mellowing, enriching, resting, inspiring influence of love is felt from cellar to garret, even as the fragrance of new-blown locust blossoms will fill a room.