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Helping The Poor
by [?]

And Mr. Prescott looked inquiringly at the man.

“If I was only able-bodied,” said Gardiner, in a half reluctant tone and manner.

“But you are not. Still, there are many things you may do. If by a little exertion you can earn the small sum of two or three dollars a week, it will be far better–even for your health–than idleness. Two dollars earned every week by your wife, two by your boy, and three by yourself, would make seven dollars a week; and if I am not very much mistaken, you don’t see half that sum in a week now.”

“Indeed, sir, and you speak the truth there,” said the woman.

“Very well. It’s plain, then, that work is better than idleness.”

“But we can’t get work.” The woman fell back upon this strong assertion.

“Don’t believe a word of it. I can tell you how to earn half a dollar a day for the next four or five days at least. So there’s a beginning for you. Put yourself in the way of useful employment, and you will have no difficulty beyond.”

“What kind of work, sir?” inquired the woman.

“We are about moving into a new house, and my wife commences the work of having it cleaned to-morrow morning. She wants another assistant. Will you come?”

The woman asked the number of his residence, and promised to accept the offer of work.

“Very well. So far so good,” said Mr. Prescott, cheerfully, as he arose. “You shall be paid at the close of each day’s work; and that will give you the pleasure of eating your own bread–a real pleasure, you may depend upon it; for a loaf of bread earned is sweeter than the richest food bestowed by charity, and far better for the health.”

“But about the boy, sir?” said Gardiner, whose mind was becoming active with more independent thoughts.

“All in good time,” said Mr. Prescott smiling. “Rome was not built in a day, you know. First let us secure a beginning. If your wife goes to-morrow, I shall think her in earnest; as willing to help herself, and, therefore, worthy to be helped. All the rest will come in due order. But you may rest assured, that, if she does not come to work, it is the end of the matter as far as I am concerned. So good evening to you.”

Bright and early came Mrs. Gardiner on the next morning, far tidier in appearance than when Mr. Prescott saw her before. She was a stout, strong woman, and knew how to scrub and clean paint as well as the best. When fairly in the spirit of work, she worked on with a sense of pleasure. Mrs. Prescott was well satisfied with her performance, and paid her the half dollar earned when her day’s toil was done. On the next day, and the next, she came, doing her work and receiving her wages.

On the evening of the third day, Mr. Prescott thought it time to call upon the Gardiners.

“Well this is encouraging!” said he, with an expression of real pleasure, as he gazed around the room, which scarcely seemed like the one he had visited before. All was clean, and everything in order; and, what was better still, the persons of all, though poorly clad, were clean and tidy. Mrs. Gardiner sat by the table mending a garment; her daughter was putting away the supper dishes; while the man sat teaching a lesson in spelling to their youngest child.

The glow of satisfaction that pervaded the bosom of each member of the family, as Mr. Prescott uttered these approving words, was a new and higher pleasure than had for a long time been experienced, and caused the flame of self-respect and self-dependence, rekindled once more, to rise upwards in a steady flame.

“I like to see this,” continued Mr. Prescott. “It does me good. You have fairly entered the right road. Walk on steadily, courageously, unweariedly. There is worldly comfort and happiness for you at the end. I think I have found a very good place for your son, where he will receive a dollar and a half a week to begin with. In a few months, if all things suit, he will get two dollars. The work is easy, and the opportunities for improvement good. I think there is a chance for you, also, Mr. Gardiner. I have something in my mind that will just meet your case. Light work, and not over five or six hours application each day–the wages four dollars a week to begin with, and a prospect of soon having them raised to six or seven dollars. What do you think of that?”

“Sir!” exclaimed the poor man, in whom personal pride and a native love of independence were again awakening, “if you can do this for me, you will be indeed a benefactor.”

“It shall be done,” said Mr. Prescott, positively. “Did I not say to you, that God helps those who help themselves? It is even thus. No one, in our happy country who is willing to work, need be in want; and money earned by honest industry buys the sweetest bread.”

It required a little watching, and urging, and admonition, on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Prescott, to keep the Gardiners moving on steadily, in the right way. Old habits and inclinations had gained too much power easily to be broken; and but for this watchfulness on their part, idleness and want would again have entered the poor man’s dwelling.

The reader will hardly feel surprise, when told, that in three or four years from the time Mr. Prescott so wisely met the case of the indigent Gardiners, they were living in a snug little house of their own, nearly paid for out of the united industry of the family, every one of which was now well clad, cheerful, and in active employment. As for Mr. Gardiner, his health has improved, instead of being injured by light employment. Cheerful, self-approving thoughts, and useful labor, have temporarily renovated a fast sinking constitution.

Mr. Prescott’s way of helping the poor is the right way. They must be taught to help themselves. Mere alms-giving is but a temporary aid, and takes away, instead of giving, that basis of self-dependence, on which all should rest. Help a man up, and teach him to use his feet, so that he can walk alone. This is true benevolence.