The Plum Tree
The Responsibility of Motherhood—A Lesson From the Tree Nursery.
THE LESSON—That constant training and cultivation are necessary to the attainment of excellence in plant life; so, also, the quality of the child depends upon the home training.
Mothers' Day, usually observed on the second Sunday in May, is becoming valued more and more in the Sunday School as the years go by. Miss Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, is said to have originated the idea in her effort to commemorate the anniversary of the death of her mother. She saw, in the wearing of a carnation on a selected day, a silent and beautiful tribute to motherhood throughout the world. The custom is usually followed by the wearing of a white carnation in memory of the mother departed, while a colored flower is worn for the mother living. The school decorations should be worked out in a manner appropriate to the day and its significance. The present talk deals specifically with the responsibility of motherhood.
"We have come today with our hearts filled with tender memories of the mothers who have gone—memories as sweet as these beautiful flowers, whose whiteness tells of their purity; whose form brings back the thought of their beauty; whose fragrance tells again of their love, and whose enduring qualities remind us of their faithfulness and constancy.
"But today I want to speak especially of the mothers who are still with us, those whose hair is tinged with silver, and especially of those other younger mothers who are today the close companions of their children.
"The carnation, as we see it today, was not always such a perfect blossom—no, it is a development of the modest little old-fashioned pink. Men everywhere are devoting their attention to the betterment of things in the vegetable and animal world. We are constantly bringing forth more splendid cattle and horses and sheep, through cultivation; Luther Burbank and his followers are giving us each year more perfect vegetables and fruits and flowers, through scientific cultivation. Here, for example, we find in a northern state a plum tree bearing fruit such as no other northern tree ever produced before. We ask the nurseryman how it is possible to transplant this fruit from a warmer zone to the region of rigorous Winters. He replies that this tree was not brought from a warmer locality, but that it grew here from the beginning. How, then, can it be made to produce such big, splendid plums when no other tree in the neighborhood grows such luscious fruit?
"Here is the explanation: The tree was found growing wild in the woods. [Draw the branch of Fig. 112 in brown and the leaves in green.] And there in the woods it produced only very small, sour plums. [Complete Fig. 112 by drawing the plums in purple or a combination of red and blue.] But with this hardy tree to work on, the fruit experts, through grafting and cultivation, have caused it to bring forth this large, luscious fruit. [With purple, or a combination of red and blue, enlarge the plums, completing Fig. 113.] These men knew what to do and they did it. If they hadn't done it, the tree, worthless and neglected, would still bear little, sour plums instead of big, sweet ones.
"Mothers, the nursery of your home is like the nursery where the fruit experts do their wonderful work. God has placed in your keeping these little ones. You are the expert whose business it is to see that as they grow older they will not bear the small, sour fruit of wrong living, but the large, sweet fruit of Christian service. What they are to be depends upon you. The plum tree in the woods could not grow better of itself. It had to have help. And yet, we find mothers everywhere who seem to think that the child can develop into a high type of manhood and womanhood if he is provided with a plenty to eat and wear and with the public school and the Sunday school at his disposal.
"Within the heart of each mother God has implanted a natural knowledge of how to care for the child. To fail to apply this knowledge is to fail to reach up to a parent's highest privilege.
"The Sunday school can do much, but we must remember that home was God's first and holiest school. It is in the home that the child receives his first and most lasting lessons. Let us not misjudge the ability of the child to perceive the inconsistency, the insincerity, of father and mother. Even though the parent be a teacher in the Sunday school, her influence cannot be for the best if her everyday life is wasted in society and unworthy amusements. The father's praise of the Bible loses its gilt edge when the boy sees him bound up in the Sunday paper for two hours, without ever finding time to read the Scriptures.
"Let us all, therefore, look at this whole matter seriously. We may each have a part in this training, this cultivating, this producing of better minds, better hands and cleaner lives, but after all, mothers, the great responsibility is yours, for it is into your hands that God has placed the children, these innocent little ones who are a type of heaven itself."
Next: The Hollow Tree