It is not so much a question of legislation as of education and right doing, thus a dealing with the _individual_, and so a prevention and a cure, not merely a suppression and a regulation, which is always sure to fail; for, in a case of right or wrong no question is ever settled finally until it is settled rightly.
The individual, dealing with the individual is necessarily at the bottom of all true social progress. There can’t be anything worthy the name without it. The truth will at once be recognized by all _that the good of the whole defends upon the good of each, and the good of each makes the good of the whole_. Attend, then, to the individual, and the whole will take care of itself. Let each individual work in harmony with every other, and harmony will pervade the whole. The old theory of competition–that in order to have great advancement, great progress, we must have great competition to induce it–is as false as it is savage and detrimental in its nature. We are just reaching that point where the larger men and women are beginning to see its falsity. They are recognizing the fact that, _not competition, but co-operation, reciprocity, is the great, the true power_,–to climb, not by attempting to drag, to keep down one’s fellows, but by aiding them, and being in turn aided by them, thus combining, and so multiplying the power of all instead of wasting a large part one against the other.
And grant that a portion do succeed in rising, while the other portion remain in the lower condition, it is of but little value so far as their own peace and welfare are concerned; for they can never be what they would be, were all up together. Each is but a part, a member, of the great civil body; and no member, let alone the entire body, can be perfectly well, perfectly at ease, when any other part is in dis-ease. No one part of the community, no one part of the nation, can stand alone: all are dependent, interdependent. This is the uniform teaching of history from the remotest times in the past right through to the present. A most admirable illustration of this fact–if indeed the word “admirable” can be used in connection with a matter so deplorable–was the unparalleled labor trouble we had in our great Western city but a few summers ago. The wise man is he who learns from experiences of this terrific nature.
No, not until this all-powerful principle is fully recognized, and is built upon so thoroughly that the brotherhood principle, the principle of oneness can enter in, and each one recognizes the fact that his own interests and welfare depend upon the interests, the welfare of each, and therefore of all, that each is but a part of the one great whole, and each one stands shoulder to shoulder in the advance forward, can we hope for any true solution of the great social problems before us, for any permanent elevation of the standard in our national social life and welfare.
This same principle is the solution, and the only true solution, of the charities question, as indeed the whole world during the last few years or so, and during this time only, is beginning to realize. And the splendid and efficient work of the organized charities in all our large cities, as of the Elberfeld system in Germany, is attesting the truth of this. Almost numberless methods have been tried during the past, but all have most successfully failed; and many have greatly increased the wretched condition of matters, and of those it was designed to help. During this length of time only have these all-important questions been dealt with in a true, scientific, Christ-like, common-sense way. It has been found even here that nothing can take the place of the personal and friendly influences of a life built upon this principle of service.
The question of aiding the poor and needy has passed through three distinct phases of development in the world’s history. In early times it was, “Each one for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.” From the time of the Christ, and up to the last few years it has been, “Help others.” Now it is, “_Help others to help themselves_.” The wealthy society lady going down Fifth Avenue in New York, or Michigan Avenue in Chicago, or Charles Street in Baltimore, or Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, who flings a coin to one asking alms, is _not_ the one who is doing a true act of charity; but, on the other hand, she may be doing the one she thus gives to and to society in general much more harm than good, as is many times the case. It is but a cheap, a very cheap way of buying ease for her sympathetic nature or her sense of duty. Never let the word “charity,” which always includes the elements of interested service, true helpfulness, kindliness, and love, be debased by making it a synonym of mere giving, which may mean the flinging of a quarter in scorn or for show.