The Twelve Greatest Things Series–Friendship

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

Twelve is a number that stands out strangely in sacred literature: Twelve Jewish tribes – twelve disciples – the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem are numbered as twelve. Twelve months in the year – “a dozen” is a common unit of calculation. So why not twelve “greatest things” in human life?

–The Editors, The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, June 1926

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today’s post is the sixth installment in the Twelve Greatest Things in Life series. The topic is friendship.



I have been called the great sheltering tree in a selfish world. Some have said that I am the wine of life. I know that I am one soul in two bodies. I am Love without alters, vows and veils. Only those whom I unite are really married. Love dies where I do not enter. No man and woman can live as God intended unless I blend into high and holy meaning the attractions between them. Love’s desire is the hot flame that burns first about the wood in the grate. I am the lasting embers that warm the household.

While my wings may not seem so beautiful as those of Love, they sustain me longer and hold me closer to the earth. I am rarer than what is commonly called Love, for Love begins and, alas! Too often ends with the body. I am the high quality of the soul.

I teach people how to show their best natures to others. I am, in truth, Nature’s greatest masterpiece. There is no literature worthy of the name through whose warp I do not weave my golden woof. I knitted together the souls of David and Jonathan, of Damon and Pythias. Heaven can send to two souls no greater gift than me.

The young, because they are young, cast me away lightly. They think I am as cheap as dirt. They confuse me with Acquaintanceship and with Attraction. Those in middle life grow more careful about me. The aged treasure me above rubies.

Men may nod to thousands; they may speak to hundreds; they may commune with tens; thrice lucky is the man who at sixty years can count three real friends.

I hold the cup called Solace at the feast of life. I keep both joy and sorrow from becoming solitary. I know the alchemic secret whereby I can make infirmities sweet when mutually borne. I teach men that no load in life is unbearable when a friend’s shoulders share the burden.

I am the chief ornament of any home. Every material adornment is but a tinseled gewgaw unless I am there. Oh, that men were wise enough to keep down the weeds from the paths that lead to the houses of their friends!

I am not cheap. Really, I am as expensive as Love. I demand long years of loyal service and the bearing of many burdens. In return, I give to men joys that are worth as much as health, wealth, or labor.

If you give heed to my words of wisdom, you never will slight me, never use me for selfish ends, never lie about your intentions, bicker or quarrel over gain, or lead me tied into the marketplace. If you do these things, I shall quickly desert you.

The ancients who believed that “wine, women, and song” were the most precious gifts of the gods, were wrong. Unless I am present in all the associations of human beings, wine inebriates, women destroy and song lends itself to inhumanity.

My roots live only in the soul of mutual self-respect. Well, did Emerson say of me:

“A day for toil, an hour for sport,

But for a friend, a life’s too short.”

In the Book of Books, it is written of me, “Thine own friend and thy Fathers’ forsake not,” The Master said to those who loved him, “I call ye not servants, but friends.”

To those who would really live, I give this recipe. I guarantee it shall never fail you if you follow it: “IF YOU WISH A FRIEND, BE ONE.”–Dr. John W. Holland


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, June 1926, Page 328; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Twelve Greatest Things Series–Toil

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

The Greatest Twelve concerning which Doctor Holland writes from month to month, although numbered, are not meant to be presented in any order suggesting the importance of one over another. Each lead in its own place—Love, Struggle, Money, Play, Toil, and the seven yet to come.

–The Editors of The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women

Hello, again History Lovers,

I would like to dedicate today’s post on Toil to one of the hardest working women in my life, my maternal grandmother. She not only instilled in me the desire to work hard but also to do the very best job possible.



Man once believed that I came into the world as a curse upon him for their sin; now he knows that the Garden was given to him for his home, his task was to dress and care for it.

Though called by many names, Toil is the one I prefer. Did not an earth’s great poet sing of me,

“Toil makes the soul of man to shine
And makes rest fragrant and benign.”

I am the fulfiller of every noble ambition and hold in my hands the key to every palace that men would enter. I point the way to every path where Hope beckons. If youths will only follow me, I will give to them every excellence and teach them to conquer everywhere.

The earth is full of foolish people, foolish enough to think that they may succeed without toil. All such die no better than they were born. Their last cry is more worthless than their first.

I will put a crown of honor upon the brow of everyone who works, for God has put no distinctions between tasks. The blacksmith and the senator are equally my favorites the artist and the artisan I equally love. I give no man who does not toil any chance of being a real man or of blessing the race. My beatitude is, “Blessed is he who loves his work.”

I am one of the chief solacers of those who have sorrows to forget. The broken-hearted turn ever to me for relief. When bereft mothers wring their hands, I fill them with tasks and make their slumber sweet. Millions of tears I have prevented by putting new burdens upon tired backs. This is a secret of help I have from the Creator.

I am set as one of the joy makers of the heart. I sweeten the bread in the mouth of the toiler. I hide gold in the mountains and pearls in the depths of the sea and make men happy while they toil for their treasures.

The idles, the lazy, the gourmands, the sensualist seek me not. With folded hands and withered dreams, they pass in nothingness to the grave.

Blessed are all who toil: the lover for his beloved; the lady for her liege; parents for their little ones; the artist for his dreams; the scholar for his knowledge, the sinner for his goodness; the farmer for his grain; the shepherd for his flock.

The stars in their courses work on the side of those who are alive with work.


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, May 1926, Page 275; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Twelve Greatest Things In Life Series–Play

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

Hello, again History Lovers,

We have come to the fourth article in the Twelve Greatest Things In Life Series. This month’s topic is Play and it speaks powerfully of mental health.

While enduring two years of varying levels of Covid lockdown I have certainly noticed the effect that isolation has had on the elderly. No longer being able to be as physically and emotionally involved in activities, hobbies, friends, family, and life has caused folks depression, anxiety, and diminished cognitive abilities. It could be argued that the Covid lockdown took away their opportunity to Play with a serious cost to mental health. As life moves back toward “normal” I hope that Play will serve to improve the mental health of everyone but especially the elderly.



As ancient as Work and Struggle am I. It has been given to me to keep men from growing stale or going insane. They call me Play.

All animate life feels the thrill of gaiety that I inspire. The young things of all creatures I tickle till they leap and frolic.

Little children are filled with the instincts of action which I give them. If men and women were only wise enough to play more and let their little ones play, most children would be good. If I can have my way, I make the bodies of children clean and healthy while they run in their games.

Long-faced people who are dead but not yet buried look with pain upon the recreations of young people. It is because they have grown unnatural and warped.

Without me, Play, people grow old at forty and are octogenarians at fifty.

As for me, I shall never be content till I am a part of all the existence of men and women. They all need me.

The principle of inner growth is in my hands. When people cease to play, they begin to shrivel and die. The great discovery of working folk is that they ought to mingle Play with their toil. I will keep them young, and keep them growing.

Often, I have been perverted when weak men have tried to make me the whole of their lives. Such people, I destroy, for they curse the earth. The Creator at first made all pleasures innocent, all passions pure. Because some foolish ones are destroyed by pleasure is proof of my power, but I wish only to bless and never hurt anyone. My mission is daily to re-create man for his noblest task.

Whenever I am crowded from a palace or humble home, the physician enters. It is a law of Nature that they who despise me must pay the Doctor. If you would digest your food, laugh, and be jolly. Dyspepsia reaps his harvest from play-less bodies.

As the master loosens the tension of the violin strings, so I relax the tautness of human nerves and give them rest through change.

If I could persuade men and women to come out of doors with me, they could close half of their hospitals and prisons in a generation. I am the balance wheel, the “governor” of the human soul. Religious people are not made better through a lack of diversion. Rather are they made to grow unnatural. I could again paint upon their cheeks the roses of health and give real life to their soul. Prayer is not more necessary to life than I. Really he prays best who plays best.

I call men to give the right amount of time to pleasures, relaxation, sports. While they frolic, I will make them “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and send them back to the great tasks of life with a zest for those who have been reborn.


The Twelve Greatest Things Series–Money

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

The first of the Great Twelve discussed by Doctor Holland was Love. In February he showed us the value of Struggle. This month he shows us the two faces of Money–its good face and its bad, its smile and its frown.

The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women

Hello, again History Lovers!

Today’s post is the third installment of The Twelve Greatest Things Series published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women 1926. Through Reverend Hollands’ essay, we are reminded of the ability Money has to ennoble a man’s character, as well as the power to expose a man’s ignoble soul.



“I AM the most popular of man’s earthly treasures. Throughout the world, I am called by a thousand names.

Since I was discovered, I have had more power than any other thing or idea.

Americans are positively crazy over me. So restless are they to possess me that they have no peace night or day. Their two leading occupations seem to be to get and spend me. I am the god in whom they trust.

One of my greatest names is Power. At times I have seemed almost Omnipotent. I have put sniveling weaklings upon golden thrones and bought crowns for their worthless heads. Priests and ministers have sold their souls for me. Whole governments have I held in my powerful hand. When fools make war, I sit behind the scenes and pull the wires of human destiny.

I am a magic wand. I erect hospitals where cripples are cured. I build houses of God where men find forgiveness and peace. I buy the jewel which the lover places upon the hand of his beloved. I accompany the pair throughout their journey of life and at last, buy them a winding sheet (shroud).

While I am neither good nor bad in myself, I bless or burn those who use or abuse my power. If any man will love me enough, I absolutely rule him.

If you would see me at my worst, behold the shriveled heart of a miser.

My best use is to make possible the bloom of health upon a baby’s cheek.

Poor fools will lie for me but they always regret their bargain. Often have I been in the pockets of robbers but I never have enriched one thief. I have an eternal quarrel with all who use me dishonestly.

If men were only wise, they would see how cheap I really am compared with the great things of life. True love I never once have purchased, nor have I ever made one home happy where love was not there before I came.

Health is worth many times more than wealth, yet countless men have traded their health for me. All such desire to trade back. Nature does not allow that, for she has put no reverse gears in the human-machine. Though men know this, still I have but to “jingle my guineas” in their ears, and they rush off like hounds after a hare.

Honor is above the price of rubies, yet, here and there, I find men whose honor is purchasable. Even some women sell their virtue for dollars and men have sacrificed lovely daughters on the altar of mammon.

Foolish men! Do they not know that the soul is worth more than all material worlds? I have never saved one soul in all time, nor ever. I can not buy a prayer, nor am I to be compared to one tear of repentance.

What am I? I am a tool, a prop, a temporary comfort. My blessing and my cursing stop at the grave. From there men’s souls go on without me. I have sent many souls to judgment but have accompanied none.

I am only for Time. Men are created for Eternity.”


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1926, page 141; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Twelve Greatest Things Series–Struggle

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

First in his list of The Twelve Greatest Things In Human Life, Doctor Holland named Love. This month comes sturdy Struggle. Some of our friends are memorizing the short chapters; others are pasting them up in scrapbooks.

Hello, again History Lovers!

The new year brought with it a new series to The Farmer’s Wife Magazine–the Twelve Greatest Things In Life–written by Reverend John W. Holland. The series was originally published in monthly installments by THE FARMER’S WIFE–A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN. Each month’s article featured a topic regarding the human condition, therefore the topics are as pertinent today as they were in 1926. Installments of this series will be posted on the first Sunday of every month throughout 2022.

My sincerest apologies for posting a week late. Blogging was trumped by a ski weekend with my children and grandchildren. 😉


“I AM almost as ancient as Love. Although called by many names and often cursed by foolish men, I remain unchanged.

I am the guardian of all good, for I test everything. In my furnace fires, all minerals have been burned so that only the best were left.

When Life appeared on the earth, I pounced upon it and beset its pathway with so-many difficulties that only the strong remained.

As the trees sprang from the fertile earth, I whipped them with many storms so that they which endured might have fiber strong enough to stand.

When Man came in innocence from the Creative Hand and fell into wrongdoing, I stood by him and helped him to win strong virtues in the place of his lost innocence.

Men sometimes rebel at me but they can have no great destiny without me. I am rough on the exterior but my hands are lined with velvet. I am the unwelcome trainer of all things that would grow.

I cradled a boy in poverty. I took away his mother and drove him out among rough men to win his lonely way. I denied him the schooling of the cultured and compelled him to labor in sorrow in a wilderness. I broke his heart by stealing from him the sweetheart of his youth. I battered at his brain till he was almost frenzied. I fed him the bread of poverty but through it all, I watched over him, enlarged his sympathies, quickened his brain, till at last, Lincoln, arose like a colossus among the saviors of the race.

Cowards and weaklings are afraid of me but I know the only things that will make real men of them. Women who are foolish enough to try to shield themselves from me sink into nothingness.

I temper the heart and sinew of the athlete by making him fight and work for his laurels.

I gave to virtue its divine quality by compelling it to fight to the death its sinful enemies.

I make bread sweet in man’s mouth by his very labor for it.

When earth needs prophets, I prepare scorpion whips for the hands of those who scourge the backs of the good.

I make the noblest music of the world from the anguish of suffering.

Would you be well? Then fight the enemies of health. Do you desire to become wise? Dig for the gold of wisdom. Would you be noble? Master every lurking secret weakness within you. Would you be a saint? Annihilate sinning.

Men desire easy paths to glory. I refuse them utterly, for my noblest crown is a Crown of Thorns, and life’s sweetest bliss is the memory of a conquered sorrow.

The angel that you desire to carve I have hidden for you in the hard block of marble.

My name is Struggle!”


The above article was published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1926; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.