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in the land ought to prize above almost every other quality the capacity for self-help; and yet every man and woman in the land will at some time or other be sorely in need of the help of others, and at some time or other will find that he or she can in turn give help even to the strongest. The quality of self-help is so splendid a quality that nothing can compensate for its loss; yet, like every virtue, it can be twisted into a fault, and it becomes a fault if carried to the point of cold-hearted arrogance, of inability to understand that now and then the strongest may be in need of aid, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, the strong should always be glad of the chance in turn to aid the weak.
The Young Men's Christian Associations and the Young Women's Christian Associations, which have now spread over all the country, are invaluable because they can reach every one. I am certainly a beneficiary myself, having not infrequently used them as clubs or reading-rooms when I was in some city in which I had but little or no personal acquaintance. In part they develop the good qualities of those who join them; in part they do what is even more valuable, that is, simply give opportunity for the men or women to develop the qualities themselves. In most cases they provide reading-rooms and gymnasiums, and therefore furnish a means for a man or woman to pass his or her leisure hours in
profit or amusement as seems best. The average individual will not spend the hours in which he is not working in doing something that is unpleasant, and absolutely the only way permanently to draw average men or women from occupations and amusements that are unhealthy for soul or body is to furnish an alternative which they will accept. To forbid all amusements, or to treat innocent and vicious amusements as on the same plane, simply ensures recruits for the vicious amusements. The Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations would have demonstrated their value a hundredfold over if they had done nothing more than furnish reading-rooms, gymnasiums, and places where, especially after nightfall, those without homes, or without attractive homes, could go without receiving injury. They furnish meeting-grounds for many young men who otherwise would be driven, perhaps to the saloon, or if not, then to some cigar-store or other lounging-place, where at the best the conversation would not be elevating, and at the worst companionships might be formed which would lead to future disaster. In addition to this the associations give every opportunity for self-improvement to those who care to take advantage of the opportunity, and an astonishing number do take advantage of it.
Mention was made above of some of the sources
from which at times we drew policemen while engaged in managing the New York Police Department. Several came from Young Men's Christian Associations. One of them whom we got from the Bowery Branch of the Young Men's Christian Association I remember particularly. I had gone around there one night, and the secretary mentioned to me that they had a young man who had just rescued a woman from a burning building, showing great strength, coolness, and courage. The story interested me, and I asked him to send for the young fellow. When he turned up he proved to be a Jew, Otto R— , who, when very young, had come over with his people from Russia at the time of one of the waves of persecution in that country. He was evidently physically of the right type, and as he had been studying in the association classes for some time he was also mentally fit, while his feat at the fire showed he had good moral qualities. We were going to hold the examinations in a few days, and I told him to try them. Sure enough, he passed and was appointed. He made one of the best policemen we put on. As a result of his appointment, which meant tripling the salary he had been earning, and making an immense bound in social standing, he was able to keep his mother and old grandmother in comfort, and see to the starting of his small brothers and sisters in life; for he was already a good son and brother, so that it was not surprising that he made a good policeman.
I have not dwelt on the work of the State charitable institutions, or of those who are paid to do charitable work as officers and otherwise. But it is bare justice to point out that the great majority of those thus paid have gone into the work, not for the sake of the money, but for the sake of the work itself, though, being dependent upon their own exertions for a livelihood, they are obliged to receive some recompense for their services.
There is one class of public servants, however, not employed directly as philanthropic agents, whose work, nevertheless, is as truly philanthropic in character as that of any man or woman existing. I allude to the public-school teachers whose schools lie in the poorer quarters of the city. In dealing with any body of men and women general statements must be made cautiously, and it must always be understood that there are numerous exceptions. Speaking generally, however, the women teachers—I mention these because they are more numerous than the men—who carry on their work in the poorer districts of the great cities form as high-principled and useful a body of citizens as is to be found in the entire community, and render an amount of service which can hardly be paralleled by that of any other equal number of men or women. Most women who
lead lives actively devoted to intelligent work for others grow to have a certain look of serene and high purpose which stamps them at once. This look is generally seen, for instance, among the higher types of women doctors, trained nurses, and of those who devote their lives to work among the poor; and it is precisely this look which one so often sees on the faces of those public-school teachers who have grown to regard the welfare of their pupils as the vital interest of their own lives. It is not merely the regular day-work the school-teachers do, but the amount of attention they pay outside their regular classes; the influence they have in shaping the lives of the boys, and perhaps even more of the girls, brought in contact with them; the care they take of the younger, and the way they unconsciously hold up ideals to the elder boys and girls, to whom they often represent the most tangible embodiment of what is best in American life. They are a great force for producing good citizenship. Above all things, they represent the most potent power in Americanizing as well as in humanizing the children of the newcomers of every grade who arrive here from Europe. Where the immigrant parents are able to make their way in the world, their children have no more difficulty than the children of the native-born in becoming part of American life, in sharing all its privileges and in doing all its duties. But