Recognizing the great truth that the best and only way to help another is to help him to help himself, and that the neglected classes need not so much alms as friends, the Organized Charities with their several branches in different parts of the city have their staffs of “friendly visitors,” almost all voluntary, and from some of the best homes in the land. Then when a case of need comes to the notice of the society, one of these goes to the person or family as a _friend_ to investigate, to find what circumstances have brought about these conditions, and, if found worthy of aid, present needs are supplied, an effort is made to secure work, and every effort is made to put them on their feet again, that self-respect may be regained, that hope may enter in; for there is scarcely anything that tends to make one lose his self-respect so quickly and so completely as to be compelled, or of his own accord, to ask for alms.
It is thus many times that a new life is entered upon, brightness and hope taking the place of darkness and despair. This is not the only call the friendly visitor makes; but he or she becomes a _true friend_, and makes regular visits as such. If by this method the one seeking charity is found to be an impostor, as is frequently the case, proper means of exposure are resorted to, that his or her progress in this course may be stopped. The organizations are thus doing a most valuable work, and one that will become more and more valuable as they are enabled to become better organized, the greatest need to-day being more with the true spirit to act as visiting friends.
It is this same great principle that has given birth to our college and university settlements and our neighborhood guilds which are so rapidly increasing, and which are destined to do a great and efficient work. Here a small colony of young women, many from our best homes, and the ablest graduates of our best colleges, and young men, many of them the ablest graduates of our best universities, take up their abode in the poorest parts of our large cities, to try by their personal influence and personal contact to raise the surrounding life to a higher plane. It is in these ways that the poor and the unfortunate are dealt with directly. Thus the classes mingle. Thus that sentimentalism which may do and which has done harm to these great problems, and by which the people it is designed to help may be hindered rather than helped, is done away with. Thus true aid and service are rendered, and the needy are really helped.
The one whose life is built upon this principle will not take up work of this kind as a “fad,” or because it is “fashionable,” but because it is right, true, Christ-like. The truly great and noble never fear thus to mingle with those poorer and less fortunate. It is only those who would like to be counted as great, but who are too small to be so recognized, and who, therefore, always thinking of self, put forth every effort to appear so. There is no surer test than this.
Very truly has it been said that “the greatest thing a man can do for God is to be kind to some of His other children.” All children of the same Father, therefore all brothers, sisters. Man is next to God. Man is God incarnate. Humanity, therefore, cannot be very far from being next to godliness. Many people there are who are greatly concerned about serving God, as they term it. Their idea is to build great edifices with costly ornaments to Him. A great deal of their time is spent in singing songs and hallelujahs to Him, just as if _He_ needed or wanted these for Himself, forgetting that He is far above being benefited by anything that we can say or do, forgetting that He doesn’t want these, when for lack of them some of His children are starving for bread to eat or are dying for the bread of life.
Can you conceive of a God who is worthy of love and service,–and I speak most reverently,–who under such conditions would take a satisfaction in these things? I confess I am not able to. I can conceive of no way in which I can serve God only as I serve Him through my own life and through the lives of my fellow-men. This, certainly, is the only kind of service He needs or wants, or that is acceptable to Him. At one place we read, “He that says he loves God and loves not his fellow-men, is a liar; and the truth is not in him.”