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We need a new emphasis on honesty, character, and integrity. As we build into the fiber of our individual lives the virtues that are the essence of true civilization, so will the pattern of our times change. The question that confronts us is: Where shall we begin?
Love: The Lodestar of Life
Love is the only force that can erase the differences between people or bridge the chasms of bitterness.
When I was a little boy, we children traced paper hearts at school on Valentine's Day. At night, we dropped them at the doors of our friends, stamped on the porch, and then ran into the dark to hide.
Almost without exception, those Valentines had printed on them: "I love you." I have since come to know that love is more than a paper heart. Love is the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is not found only at the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arches across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, and neighbors!
Love, like faith, is a gift of God. It is also the most enduring and most powerful virtue.
In our youth, we sometimes acquire faulty ideas of love, believing that it can be imposed or simply created for convenience. I noted the following in a newspaper column some years ago:
One of the grand errors we tend to make when we are young is supposing that a person is a bundle of qualities, and we add up the individual's good and bad qualities, like a bookkeeper working on debits and credits. If the balance is favorable, we may decide to take the jump [into marriage]. . . . The world is full of unhappy men and women who married because . . . it seemed to be a good investment. Love, however, is not an investment; it is an adventure. And when marriage turns out to be as dull and comfortable as a sound investment, the disgruntled party soon turns elsewhere. . . . Ignorant people are always saying, "I wonder what he sees in her," not realizing that what he sees in her (and what no one else can see) is the secret essence of love.
I think of two friends from my high school and university years. He was a boy from a country town, plain in appearance, without money or apparent promise. He had grown up on a farm, and if he had any quality that was attractive, it was the capacity to work. He carried bologna sandwiches in a brown paper bag for his lunch, and swept the school floors to pay his tuition. But with all of his rustic appearance, he had a smile and a personality that seemed to sing of goodness. She was a city girl who had come out of a comfortable home. She would not have won a beauty contest, but she was wholesome in her decency and integrity, and attractive in her decorum and dress.
Something wonderful took place between them. They fell in love. Some whispered that there were far more promising boys for her, and a gossip or two noted that perhaps other girls might have interested him. But these two laughed and danced and studied together through their school years. They married when people wondered how they could ever earn enough to stay alive. He struggled through his professional school and came out well in his class. She scrimped and saved and worked and prayed. She encouraged and sustained, and when things were really tough, she said quietly, "Somehow we can make it." Buoyed by her faith in him, he kept going through the difficult years. Children came, and together they loved them and nourished them and gave them the security that came of their own love for and loyalty to each other. Now many years have passed. Their children are grown, a lasting credit to them and to the communities in which they live.
I happened to find myself on the same flight as this couple a few years ago. I walked down the aisle in the semidarkness of the cabin and saw a woman, white-haired, her head on her husband's shoulder as she dozed. His hand was clasped warmly about hers. He was awake and recognized me. She awakened, and we talked. They were returning from a convention where he had delivered a paper before a learned society. He said little about it, but she proudly spoke of the honors accorded him.
I wish that I might have caught with a camera the look on her face as she talked of him. Forty-five years earlier, people without understanding had asked what they saw in each other. I thought of that as I returned to my seat. Their friends of those days saw only a farm boy from the country and a smiling girl with freckles on her nose. But these two found in each other love and loyalty, peace and faith in the future. There was a flowering in them of something divine, planted there by that Father who is our God. In their school days, they had lived worthy of that flowering of love. They had lived with virtue and faith, with appreciation and respect for self and one another. In the years of their difficult professional and economic struggles, they had found their greatest earthly strength in their companionship. Now, in mature age, they were finding peace and quiet satisfaction together.
There is nothing as energizing, as confidence-building, as sustaining as the power of love. How substantial is its influence on the human mind and heart! How great and magnificent is its power in overcoming fear and doubt, worry and discouragement!