“Well,” said Robert, “I’ll do it.”
“You are well and strong now, so you can do it pretty easily,” added the mother; “but still, unless you would like to do it yourself for her sake, I can get the man to do it. But if you would like to do it yourself, I think it would please her very much as an expression of your gratitude and love for her.”
“Yes,” said Robert, “I should a great deal rather do it myself, and I will begin this very day.”
And yet, if his mother had not made the suggestion, he would probably not have thought of making any such return, or even any return at all, for his sister’s devoted kindness to him when he was sick. In other words, the sentiment of gratitude was in his heart, or, rather, the capacity for it was there, but it needed a little fostering care to bring it out into action. And the thing to be observed is, that by this fostering care it was not only brought out at the time, but, by being thus brought out and drawn into action, it was strengthened and made-to grow, so as to be ready to come out itself without being called, on the next occasion.-It was like a little plant just coming out of the ground under influences not altogether favorable. It needs a little help and encouragement; and the aid that is given by a few drops of water at the right time will bring it forward and help it to attain soon such a degree of strength and vigor as will make it independent of all external aid.
But there must be consideration, tact, a proper regard to circumstances, and, above all, there must be no secret and selfish ends concealed, on the part of the mother in such cases. You may deluge and destroy your little plant by throwing on the water roughly or rudely; or, in the case of a boy upon whose mind you seem to be endeavoring to produce some moral result, you may really have in view some object of your own—your interest in the moral result being only a pretense.
For instance, Egbert, under circumstances similar to those recited above—in respect to the sickness of the boy, and the kind attentions of his sister—came to his mother one afternoon for permission to go a-fishing with some other boys who had called for him. He was full of excitement and enthusiasm at the idea. But his mother was not willing to allow him to go. The weather was lowering. She thought that he had not yet fully recovered his health; and she was afraid of other dangers. Instead of saying calmly, after a moment’s reflection, to show that her answer was a deliberate one, that he could not go, and then quietly and firmly, but without assigning any reasons, adhering to her decision—a course which, though it could not have saved the boy from emotions of disappointment, would be the best for making those feelings as light and as brief in duration as possible—began to argue the case thus;
“Oh no, Egbert, I would not go a-fishing this afternoon, if I were you. I think it is going to rain. Besides, it is a nice cool day to work in the garden, and Lucy would like to have her garden made very much. You know that she was very kind to you when you were sick—how many things she did for you; and preparing her garden for her would be such a nice way of making her a return. I am sure you would not wish to show yourself ungrateful for so much kindness.”