Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

their number limited, the individual knew all his unfortunate brethren, was acquainted with their needs, and stirred by their sufferings. Then private benevolence, springing solely from the true charitable motive, was not only sufficient to meet those needs, but involved little or no danger to the recipient.

But, when society became more complex, when cities multiplied in number and population, when the gradual estrangement of the poor from the well-to-do left one class in practical ignorance of the other private benevolence, in many cases, was perforce extended to those of whose circumstances the giver had no intimate knowledge; and frequently, suffering was never reached because unknown.

Hence the necessity rose for organized bodies, first controlled completely by the Church, then, frequently, independent of the Church. As we have said, both motives underlie the work of charitable organizations. Some came into being because individuals, moved by the charitable impulse, lacked the time or the physical abil ity to obey that impulse, yet felt they must provide an outlet for its gratification. Others owed their existence to such persons as had become acquainted with the needs of the poor and had observed the evil results of improperly bestowed relief or lack of any relief, and desired to avert from society the deplorable results that from day to day became more marked.

It was apparent, however, before civilization had progressed much further, that indifference, ignorance, and lack of the charitable motive on the part of perhaps the majority of the community left these asso ciations of individuals powerless to meet all the destitution on the one hand, and on the other to satisfy the discontent which poverty is bound to produce. Therefore, the State stepped in to extend help, first to shield itself by mitigating the evils that must result from human misery, and, second, to protect itself from the possible revolutionary effects of wide-spread social discontent.

Therefore, the three forms of charity-individual assistance, associated benevolence, and State aid-exist to-day. However much may be said as to the disadvantages of help extended from any other motive than true charity, all three forms seem to be required under the present circumstances.

Yet, despite extensive private benevolence and help of a hundred different kinds provided by organized bodies of individuals, and although the State, with its power of taxation, levies alike upon the

willing and the unwilling, the charitable, the neglectful, and the uncharitable for the expenditures of its poor fund, in every corner of the globe, human poverty, confirmed pauperism, crime, and all the other evils familiar to the student of the social conditions of the day seem to be increasing.

A community might be justified in viewing with equanimity the mere dependency of a portion of its population if such dependency did not lead to worse conditions. The man who falls from independence to dependency invariably loses the desire for higher things, that is to say, his ambition. The desires of the impoverished diminish as his vitality is weakened by advancing years. This means: first, neglect of education; second, loss of the property sense and of the desire to accumulate property; third, disregard of parental duties; fourth, contentment with poor dwellings, meagre and improperly prepared food, and insufficient clothing; fifth, the loss even of the desire for cleanliness. These various steps in the degradation of the human being are accompanied by a progressive loss of pride, which fosters dishonesty and immorality.

Neglected education results in a useless, if not a dangerous, citizen, with uncontrollable passions, and the inability to make proper use of the franchise. Loss of the property sense develops the thief. Loss of the desire to accumulate property renders one indifferent to the welfare of society. Contentment with poor dwellings, poor food, and poor clothing, results in shattered constitutions. Loss. of habits of cleanliness breeds disease. And loss of morality leads to crimes against the person, to the social evil with its attendant illegitimacy, and to the drink habit with its accompanying sapping of vitality.

Still, one may say that, if this degradation be confined to the adults, the community need not have great fear of consequences. But, unfortunately, it is not confined to the adults, because every condition of the degraded adult must, in some way, be reflected in his children. It has been found that in some tenement quarters the percentage of mortality from distinct diseases is no greater than in the refined portions of a city. This may be admitted. But any person acquainted with the poor will recognize at once, aside from the prevalence of disease, an undervitalization in the young which is bound so to handicap the coming generation that the misery and vice of the community must constantly augment. The stunted

forms, the scrofulous skins, the rickety limbs, the feeble minds of the young among the poor cry aloud that society, in its endeavor to extend aid to the unfortunate, has been blind where it should have seen, has not reached into all the haunts of suffering, has crippled where it should have made whole, has neglected where divine precepts, social alertness, and human sympathy all demand that the hand of brotherhood should be extended.

Now there are two general propositions put forward for the cure or at least the mitigation of the evil. One class asserts that cure lies in the proper education of the young. In this class the set that has been most aggressive, and has perhaps accomplished most, is that which supports the kindergarten, on which are afterward engrafted manual training and technical education. The other class consists of the active charity workers, who see the existence of misery, who trace it to its causes, who know its results, and who found societies and institutions of every nature to deal with the evils of poverty and pauperism. Both classes are right, and both are wrong, in asserting that they have found the cure. The kindergarten accomplishes much during the time it has the child under its control; but when, at the end of three years, the little one is released from its influence and must encounter all the evil environments of its home without external aid to its power of resistance, how long can such influence last? The kindergarten cannot cure scrofula, cannot cure marasmus, cannot straighten rickety limbs, cannot make a feeble mind strong. On the other hand, the charitable association which cares for the sick or reforms the tenement, or feeds the hungry or clothes the naked, or provides ice in the summer or fuel in winter, or cares for the aged, can make no visible impression upon the problem if new generations constantly fill the gaps caused by the removals from the ranks of the submerged. The conclusion, therefore, is that the two must work hand in hand, that they must complement each other.

If in our community to-day we had no poor, no distressed, no pauperized, and no vicious people, and every child had the advantage of all that the great progress in educational methods places within our grasp, one might predict fearlessly that the next generation also would know no poor or vicious. If, on the other hand, the charitable society is conscious that, while it is effecting the reformation of the parent through human help, the child is being so trained.

as to throw off the taint of its heritage and environment, then, too, one might predict the ultimate disappearance of the existing evils.

If we enumerate in a general way the distinct classes who require from the more fortunate help of one kind or another, we shall find at least these clearly demarked:

Habitual criminals; criminals susceptible of reformation; habitual paupers; paupers susceptible of reformation; the aged without property; the physically defective; the insane; the epileptic; the idiotic; chronic invalids; the poor from incompetence; the poor from accident; the poor from improvidence; the poor from injustice; the curable sick; convalescents; criminal children; vicious, deformed and defective children susceptible of material improvement; orphans. This may seem a long list, but one hardly feels assured that it covers all the different classes who require special treatment. Ask. yourselves if in your community the special treatment required by these many classes is provided. Ask yourselves if there be within your knowledge any community on the face of the globe where such special treatment is sufficiently provided. All communities do care for the more prominent of these classes; that is, those whose characteristics are so marked that they cannot be passed by unnoticed. A few States have extended their charitable system so as to make provision for some of the less prominent types, as, for instance, the custodial asylums for adult idiots and the colonies for epileptics. But in no State is there sufficient provision for all; and I say, without fear of contradiction, that, until this provision is made and intelligently guided, all the kindergartens and manual training schools and the public schools multiplied a hundred-fold will not make the next generation materially better than this. Nor will an endless array of institutions conducted on the present disjointed system make any substantial impression.

Here, then, is our problem. How shall we solve it? When in our daily business life we meet a difficulty that cannot be overcome by individual effort, we organize. If in our daily life we find that the efforts of individuals, however earnestly executed, fail to accomplish a result, we organize those efforts until we create a union which overcomes all barriers and impediments. So, if our work among the down-trodden, the unfortunate, and the vicious, have not accomplished results, let us organize, but let us not stop with societies that deal with the poor in their own homes, or be an association of superintend

ents of hospitals for the insane, or of day nurseries, or of children's aid societies, or of medical institutions, or of prison wardens, or of State boards of charities, or of superintendents of the poor; but let our organization reach all the agencies which wish to do the best for humanity from motives of pure charity, or aim to avert the blight which must surely fall on society if measures do not equal evils.

Let us see what primary things we need to attack, in order to secure a betterment of our philanthropic work.

First. In individual benevolence we find that much giving is done almost entirely for the self-satisfaction of the giver. With this I have no quarrel. But no person has the right to satisfy himself if in so doing he injure another. This self-satisfying charity leads to overlapping of relief, to the encouragement of fraud, and to the creation of dependency.

Second. The same evils which attend individual charity are often found in church charity and in the charity of private associations.

Third. The public relieving officer seldom, if ever, co-operates with the private individual and the private society. Thus he overlaps in some cases, and in all loses the chance of obtaining for the recipient of his dole that which is far more precious in reformatory work, the friendship of an individual.

Fourth. The majority of institutions, whether conducted for charitable, penal, or educational purposes, rarely co-operate with the charity workers, who are acquainted with the home lives of the poor, and are, therefore, best able to determine the causes of social decadence. As a result, the institutions labor under the disadvantage of being unable thoroughly to diagnose the case of an inmate, and, naturally, cannot carry their work to the highest perfection. Therefore, these tasks, which can only be accomplished through thorough organization, become the duty of the hour.

First. The education of the public in charity work. It must be admitted that there is a close natural union among the efforts put forth for the assistance, the reformation, and the sequestration of the submerged element of society; that these efforts, when divergent, tend to harm; that, when convergent, they produce good; that, when actuated by any motives besides the desire to alleviate the distress of humanity and to protect society, they will surely fail; that politics—not only State politics, but church politics as well — interferes always with such efforts.

*

« AnteriorContinuar »