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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/113

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A PRACTICAL DUTCH CHARITY.

glad to copy after them; it conducts a sort of neighborhood loaning banks, and it is likely that its plans will be incorporated in the agricultural banks now under consideration. Through its instrumentality people of different classes are brought together in periodical meetings, when the lower can learn by observation from the higher, and lose much of the prejudice and envy which is so often felt, while the higher will become more tolerant toward the lower as they realize the burdens which the latter carry, and appreciate the obstacles which mar their progress, thus leveling many of the artificial class distinctions.

What this society has done for Holland, "Ons Huis" is trying to accomplish in Amsterdam; and though the latter is occupying a more limited field, its energies are more concentrated and its methods are such as to warrant its characterization as a practical charity.

The founder of "Our House," Mr. Janssen, fully realized that outright giving while blessing the giver is of questionable value to the recipient, and alms once accepted suggested in the ease with which it was obtained that a second be asked for, and the feeling of dependence soon calls into existence the belief that the uncontracted debt of a living must be collected. We therefore find a charitable organization in which everything must be purchased, but at cost so slight as to be within the reach o fall, yet being a charge, no benefit is esteemed for naught because it was obtained for nothing.

We find this unique society in a sort of "people's palace" in the very center of Amsterdam's working population. The building, which is the gift of Mr. Janssen, is on Rozen Street, Nos. 12, 14, and 16, extending through to Rozen Gracht, and contains a board room, reading room, library, gymnasium, lecture room, assembly rooms, large hall, kitchen, quarters for the janitor's family, and a restaurant.

The purpose is declared to be "to promote the moral and material development of the people—poor as well as rich—both in giving and receiving by inducing those who are blessed with knowledge or money to assist their fellow-beings whose lives are monotonous and devoid of comforts and pleasures." The very name—"Our House"—is intended to show that within its walls all enjoy equal rights, that the less learned are the younger members of the family whom the less ignorant will gladly instruct, and that the purposes and aims of all classes should be the same. Both sexes have equal privileges, and the religious and political views of those who attend the meetings or enjoy the benefits offered are never inquired into. The adherents of all faiths are treated with equal deference, and the only condition imposed is the observance of such principles of etiquette as should find favor in every home.