« PreviousContinue »
the children of the very poor of foreign birth would be handicapped almost as much as their parents, were it not for the public schools and the start thus given them. Loyalty to the flag is taught by, precept and practice in all these public schools, and loyalty to the principles of good citizenship is also taught in no merely perfunctory manner.
Here I hardly touch upon the “little red schoolhouse” out in the country districts simply because in the country districts all of our children go to the same schools, and thereby get an inestimable knowledge of the solidarity of our American life. I have touched on this in a former article, and I can here only say that it would be impossible to overestimate the good done by the association this engenders, and the excellent educational work of the teachers. We always feel that we have given our children no small advantage by the mere fact of allowing them to go to these little district schools, where they all have the same treatment and are all tried by the same standard. But with us in the country the district school is only philanthropic in that excellent sense in which all joint effort for the common good is philanthropic.
A very wholesome effect has been produced in great cities by the university settlements, college settlements, and similar efforts. to do practical good by bringing closer together the more and the less fortunate in life. It is no easy task to make movements of this kind succeed. If managed in a spirit of patronizing condescension, or with ignorance of the desires, needs, and passions of those round about, little good indeed will come from them. The fact that, instead of little, much good does in reality result, is due to the entirely practical methods and the spirit of comradeship shown by those foremost in these organizations. One particularly good feature has been their tendency to get into politics. Of course this has its drawbacks, but they are outweighed by the advantages. Clean politics is simply one form of applied good citizenship. No man can be a really good citizen unless he takes a lively interest in politics from a high standpoint. Moreover, the minute that a move is made in politics, the people who are helped and those who would help them grow to have a common interest which is genuine and absorbing instead of being in any degree artificial, and this will bring them together as nothing else would. Part of the good that results from such community of feeling is precisely like the good that results from the community of feeling about a club, football team, or baseball nine. This in itself has a good side; but there is an even better side, due to the fact that disinterested motives are appealed to, and that men are made to feel that they are working for others, for the community as a whole as well as for themselves.
There remain the host of philanthropic workers who can not be classed in any of the above-mentioned classes. They do most good when they are in touch with some organization, although, in addition, the strongest will keep some of their leisure time for work on individual lines to meet the cases where no organized relief will accomplish anything. Philanthropy has undoubtedly been a good deal disdiscredited both by the exceedingly noxious individuals who go into it with ostentation to make a reputation, and by the only less noxious persons who are foolish and indiscriminate givers. Anything that encourages pauperism, anything that relaxes the manly fibre and lowers self-respect, is an unmixed evil. The soup-kitchen style of philanthropy is as thoroughly demoralizing as most forms of vice or oppression, and it is of course particularly revolting when some corporation or private individual undertakes it, not even in a spirit of foolish charity, but for purposes of self-advertisement. In a time of sudden and widespread disaster, caused by a flood, a blizzard, an earthquake, or an epidemic, there may be ample reason for the extension of charity on the largest scale to every one who needs it. But these conditions are wholly exceptional, and the methods of relief employed to meet them must also be treated as wholly exceptional. In charity the one thing always to be remembered is that, while any
man may slip and should at once be helped to rise to his feet, yet no man can be carried with advantage either to him or to the community. The greatest possible good can be done by the extension of a helping hand at the right moment, but the attempt to carry any one permanently can end in nothing but harm. The really hard-working philanthropists, who spend their lives in doing good to their neighbors, do not, as a rule, belong to the “mushy" class, and thoroughly realize the unwisdom of foolish and indiscriminate giving, or of wild and crude plans of social reformations. The young enthusiast who is for the first time brought into contact with the terrible suffering and stunting degradation which are so evident in many parts of our great cities is apt to become so appalled as to lose his head. If there is a twist in his moral or mental make-up, he will never regain his poise; but if he is sound and healthy he will soon realize that things being bad affords no justification for making them infinitely worse, and that the only safe rule is for each man to strive to do his duty in a spirit of sanity and wholesome common-sense. No one of us can make the world move on very far, but it moves at all only when each one of a very large number does his duty.
CHARACTER AND SUCCESS
PUBLISHED IN THE "OUTLOOK,” MARCH 31, 1900
1 YEAR or two ago I was speaking to a famous M Yale professor, one of the most noted scholars in the country, and one who is even more than a scholar, because he is in every sense of the word a man. We had been discussing the Yale-Harvard foot-ball teams, and he remarked of a certain player: "I told them not to take him, for he was slack in his studies, and my experience is that, as a rule, the man who is slack in his studies will be slack in his foot-ball work; it is character that counts in both.”
Bodily vigor is good, and vigor of intellect is even better, but far above both is character. It is true, of course, that a genius may, on certain lines, do more than a brave and manly fellow who is not a genius; and so, in sports, vast physical strength may overcome weakness, even though the puny body may have in it the heart of a lion. But, in the long run, in the great battle of life, no brilliancy of intellect, no perfection of bodily development, will count when weighed in the balance against that as