What, then, must we do? Fortunately, our altruistic feelings may be gratified in a manner not harmful to the beneficiaries. Robert Treat Paine, of Boston, who has had large experience in treating the poor, prescribes the following: "Whenever any family has fallen so low as to need relief, send to them at least one friend—a patient, true, sympathizing, firm friend—to do for them all that a friend can do to discover and remove the causes of their dependence, and to help them up into independent self-support and self-respect." To which it may be added, if that friendly visitor is permitted to give alms, his and their minds are diverted from the great object—the permanent cure of poverty. It should always be regretted when circumstances seem to demand attention to immediate needs. Put off every possible want till the person can himself supply it in a manly and independent way. Better a morsel with self-respect than plenty with an enfeebled determination to fight the battle of life.
II. Orphan Asylums.—Much that has been said of giving alms applies to the treatment of delinquent and dependent children. Moved by the altruistic spirit, and feeling an approving conscience as the result of trying to do good to others, the Christian world has taken up the care of orphan asylums. Children are gathered from the slums of cities, and sometimes from pretty good homes, in to these herding-places. Then they are told, as I heard from a reverend doctor, how grateful they should be to Christianity for thus caring for them; but the fact again is that, prompted by kind motives, people thus try to do these children good without looking to the results of their acts to see the consequences.
What, then, are some of these consequences?
1. That moral corruption, brought in a little by each child, leavens the whole lump.
2. That they are often placed under incompetent teachers to learn book-lessons, when in fact their capacities call for manual training instead. (Who ever knew a scholar reared in an orphan asylum?)
3. They are fed in the cheapest sort of a way, and clothed in a uniform that causes them to be pointed out always in public as objects of charity and degradation.
4. They are kept in herds and not in families, and hence subject to rules and training necessitated by this abnormal life. Often they are so unfit to live in families that kind-hearted people can not adopt them.
5. Every delinquent mother and every drunken father now knows that he and she can indulge their vices and get rid of their children. Thousands of widowed mothers, learning that they can marry again if not encumbered with children, are putting their little ones in asylums. The asylum thus offers a premium to child-