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service for the community, on a scale that would arouse the imagination
and enlist the good-will of all right-minded people, is made sadly
remote.

So far as church work is concerned, the village boy is likely to be
overlooked, as promising little toward the immediate financial support
of the church and the increase of membership. In the brief interval of
two years - the average duration of the village pastorate - it does not
seem practicable for the minister to go about a work which will require
a much longer time to produce those "satisfactory results" for which
churches and missionary boards clamor. A revival effort which inflates
the membership-roll, strenuous and ingenious endeavors to increase the
offerings, are the barren makeshifts of a policy which does not see the
distinct advantage and security in building Christian manhood from the
foundation up.

It must not be thought that the minister is largely to blame for the
situation as it now is. Perpetuating institutions beyond the time of
their usefulness is one of society's worst habits, and it is not to be
expected that religious organizations, which in a given stage of the
development of Christian truths were vital and necessary, can easily be
persuaded to surrender their identity, even after the cause that called
them into being has been won.

Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade
Of that which once was great has passed away.

But the real religious leader who loves boys will not be balked by the
pettiness and inability of denominationalism. His hope lies not solely
in the church or the churches, but largely in the intelligence,
sympathy, and generosity of the unchurched citizens, whose number and
importance in the small town is probably in the inverse ratio of the
number of churches. Business men of whatever creed, or of none, are
remarkably responsive to any sane endeavor to create a wholesome outlet
for juvenile activity, and, whether right or wrong, count such efforts
as being more valuable than much of the traditional church endeavor.

The minister will first try to organize boys' work for the whole
community, but if co-operation on the part of all or of a group of the
churches proves impossible, let him go ahead with such assistance as his
own church and other voluntary supporters will afford, and let him still
work in entire freedom from sectarian aim. As a minister of Christ and
his kingdom he must give to Christianity an interpretation which will
offset provincial and narrow impressions. He must free it from cant and
from the other-worldly emphasis and bring it into the realm where boys
and business men will respect it as a social factor of primary
importance.

All the problems of early adolescence belong to the village boy as to
every other. He also gropes about for his vocational discovery. How
shall he gain self-control, how can he find himself? How can he relate
his life to the great perplexing world and to the God of all? How can he
win his immediate battles with temptation? The public school throws
little light upon his possible occupation, trade, or profession, nor
does it deal with his moral struggle.

The Sunday school, if it touches him at all, is often regarded as a
nuisance to be endured out of respect for others. It addresses itself
too much to tradition and too little to modern life. It gets the
Israelites from Egypt into possession of Canaan by various miraculous
interventions, stops the sea and the sun, knocks down the walls of
Jericho by the most uncommon tactics, and reveals the umpire as on the
Israelites' side.

The boy knows that if this be intended as sober history things have
changed somewhat. For these are the very things that do not and should
not happen in the conquest of his promised land. Under Christian
guidance he must learn the ethical value of an orderly world, the
morality that inheres in cause and effect, the divine help which is not
partiality; and if it should turn out that he could master these lessons
better through work and play and friendship than through being formally
instructed in misapprehended lore, then such work and play and
fellowship will prove of greater value than the Sunday-school hour
alone.

As for the country boy, perhaps his chief lack is association with his
fellows. To meet this and to satisfy the gregarious instinct, which will
be found in him as in all boys, the minister's organizing ability must
be directed. The gymnasium, in so far as it is a makeshift for lack of
proper exercise in the life of the city boy, is not in great demand in
the country. The farm boy has in his work plenty of exercise of a
general and sufficiently exhausting character, and he has the benefit of
taking it out of doors. He, of course, is not a gymnast in fineness and
grace of development, and he may need corrective exercises, but the big
muscles whose development tells for health and against nervousness are
always well used.

In so far, however, as the gymnasium affords a place for organized
indoor play through the winter months there is more to be said of its
necessity. For it is not exercise but group play that the country boy
most needs. The fun and excitement, the contest and the co-ordination of
his ability with that of others, all serve to reduce his awkwardness and
to supplant a rather painful self-consciousness with a more just idea of
his relative rating among his fellows. He finds himself, learns what it
is to pull together, and gets some idea of the problems of getting along
well with colleagues and opponents.

Wherever the country pastor can secure a room that will do for
basket-ball, indoor baseball, and the like, he may, if it is
sufficiently central and accessible, perform a useful service for the
boys and establish a point of contact. It is highly desirable that
shower-baths and conveniences for a complete change of clothing be
provided. If Saturday afternoon is a slack time and the farmers are
likely to come to the village, he should make arrangements to care for
the boys then, reserving Saturday evening for the young men. Such an
arrangement secures economy in heating the building and may overcome for
some of the youth the Saturday evening attractions of the saloon and
public dance.

For the distinctly country church, situated at the cross-roads, a
building that may serve as a gymnasium will be practically impossible
unless a very remarkable enthusiasm is awakened among the boys and young
men. But in many a country village such an equipment is both necessary
and well within the reach of a good organizer. The country people have
means and know how to work for what they really desire. What they most
lack is inspiration and leadership.

During that part of the open season when school is in session the
country minister has an excellent opportunity to meet the boys, organize
their play, and become a real factor in their lives. In the country
one-room school there will be found but few boys over fourteen years of
age, but a great deal can be done with the younger boys in some such way
as follows: As school "lets out" in the afternoon the minister is on
hand. The boys have been under a woman teacher all day and are glad to
meet a man who will lead them in vigorous play. It may be baseball,
football, trackwork with relay races, military drill, or the like - all
they need is one who knows how, who is a recognized leader, and who
serves as an immediate court of appeal. If they do not get more moral
benefit and real equipment for life's struggle in this hour and a half
than they are likely to get from a day's bookwork in the average
one-room, all-grades, girl-directed country school, it must be because
the minister is a sorry specimen.

The city minister takes his boys on outings to the country. The country
minister will bring his boys on "innings" to the city. As they see him
he is pre-eminently the apostle of that stirring, larger world. What
abilities may not be awakened, what horizons that now settle about the
neighboring farm or village may not be gloriously lifted and broadened,
what riches that printed page cannot convey may not be planted in the
young mind by the pastor who introduces country boys to their first
glimpse of great universities, gigantic industries, famous libraries,
inspiring churches, and stately buildings of government?

One need not mention such possibilities as taking a group to the fair or
the circus, or on expeditions for fishing, swimming, and hunting - all
of them easy roads to immortality in a boy's affection.

Further, the minister is not only the apostle of that greater world but
the exemplar of the highest culture. He is to bring that culture to the
country not only through his own person but by lectures on art and
literature, so that the young may participate in the world's refined and
imperishable wealth. This may mean illustrated lectures on art and the
distribution of good prints which will gradually supplant the chromos
and gaudy advertisements which often hold undisputed sway on the walls
of the farmhouse.

It might also be helpful to our partly foreign rural population to have
lectures on history such as will acquaint boys and others with the real
heroes of various nations, preserve pride in the best national
traditions, and ultimately develop a sane and sound patriotism among all
our citizens. The church building is not too sacred a place for an
endeavor of this kind. The ordinary stereopticon and the moving picture
should not be disdained in so good a cause. Boys are hero-worshipers,
and history is full of heroes of first-rate religious significance.

As a further factor in elevating and enriching the life of the country
boy, the minister may endeavor to create a taste for good reading. The
tendency is that all the serious reading shall be along agricultural
rather than cultural lines and that the lighter reading shall be only
the newspaper and the trashy story. The minister should enlarge the
boy's life by acquainting him with the great classics. A taste for good
things should be formed early. With the older boys, from the years of
sixteen or eighteen upward, organization for literary development and
debating should be tried. A good deal in a cultural way is necessary to
offset the danger which now besets the successful farmer of becoming a
slave to money-making, after the fashion of the great magnates whom he
condemns but with rather less of their general perspective of life.

The minister might help organize a mock trial, county council, school
board, state legislature, or something of that sort, as a social and
educative device for the older boys. Under certain conditions music
could well form the fundamental bond of association, and groups gathered
about such interests as these could meet from house to house, thus
promoting the social life of the parish in no small degree. Young women
might well share in the organizations that are literary and musical. The
great vogue of the country singing-school a generation ago was no mere
accident.

Could not the minister enter into the campaign for the improvement of
the conditions of farm life and stimulate the beautifying of the
dooryards by giving a prize to the boy who, in the judgment of an
impartial committee, had excelled in this good work? Could he not
interest his boys' organization in beautifying the church grounds and so
enlist them in a practical altruistic endeavor? Might he not find a very
vital point of contact with the country boy by conducting institutes for
farmers' boys, perhaps once a month, in which by the generous use of
government bulletins and by illustration and actual experiment he might
awaken a scientific interest in farming and impart valuable information?
In connection with this the boys could be induced to conduct experiments
on plots of ground on their fathers' farms. Exhibits could be made at
the church and prizes awarded. It would be a good thing too if the
profits, or part of the profits, from such experimental plots could be
voluntarily devoted to some philanthropic or religious cause. This would
have the double value of performing an altruistic act and of
intelligently canvassing the claim of some recognized philanthropy. So
also the raising of chickens and stock might be tried in a limited way
with the scientific method and the philanthropic purpose combined.

[Illustration: BOY SCOUTS STUDYING THE TREES]

In some places botanical collections can be made of great interest; or
the gathering and polishing of all the kinds of wood in the vicinity,
with an exhibition in due time, may appeal to the boys. In addition to
forestry there is ornithology, geology, and, for the early age of twelve
to fifteen, bows and arrows, crossbows, scouting, and various
expeditions answering to the adventure instinct.

The wise country minister will certainly keep in touch with the public
school, will be seen there frequently, and will give his genuine support
to the teacher in all of her endeavor to do a really noble work with a
very limited outfit. He will help her to withstand the gross
utilitarianism of the average farmer, who is slow to believe in anything
for today that cannot be turned into dollars tomorrow. What with the
consolidation of township schools, improved communication by rural
delivery and telephone, better roads, the increasing use of automobiles,
and the rising interest in rural life generally, together with a broad
view of pastoral leadership and the "cure of souls" for the whole
countryside, the minister may be a vital factor in shaping the social
and religious life of the country boy; and he will, because of his
character and office, illumine common needs and homely interests with an
ever-refined and spiritual ideal. His ministry, however, cannot be all
top, a cloudland impalpable and fleeting. It was with common footing and
vital ties that Goldsmith's village preacher

Allured to brighter worlds and led the way.

After such fashion and with thorough rootage in country life must the
minister of today turn to spiritual account the wealth-producing methods
of farming. Out of soil cultivation he must guarantee soul culture by
setting forth in person, word, and institution those ideals which have
always claimed some of the best boyhood of the country for the world's
great tasks.






CHAPTER IV

THE MODERN CITY AND THE NORMAL BOY[3]


Modern cities have been built to concentrate industrial opportunity.
They have taken their rise and form subsequent to the industrial
revolution wrought by steam and as a result of that revolution. So far
they have paid only minor attention to the conservation or improvement
of human life. Justice, not to mention mercy, toward the family and the
individual has not been the guiding star. The human element has been
left to fit as best it could into a system of maximum production at
minimum cost, rapid and profitable transportation, distribution
calculated to emphasize and exploit need, and satisfactory dividends on
what was often supposititious stock; and because these have been the
main considerations the latent and priceless wealth of boyhood has been
largely sacrificed.

The amazing and as yet unchecked movement of population toward the city
means usually a curtailment of living area for all concerned. The more
people per acre the greater the limitation of individual action and the
greater the need of self-control and social supervision. Restrictions of
all sorts are necessary for the peace of a community wherein the
physical conditions almost force people to jostle and irritate one
another. In such a situation the more spontaneous and unconventional the
expression of life the greater the danger of bothering one's neighbors
and of conflicting with necessary but artificial restrictions. Even
innocent failure to comprehend the situation may constitute one
anti-social or delinquent, and the foreigner as well as the boy is often
misjudged in this way.

But on the score of the city's inevitable "Thou shalt not," it is the
boy who suffers more than any other member of the community. His
intensely motor propensities, love of adventure, dim idea of modern
property rights, and the readiness with which he merges into the
stimulating and mischief-loving "gang" operate to constitute him the
peerless nuisance of the congested district, the scourge of an
exasperated and neurasthenic public, the enemy of good order and private
rights.

Hence juvenile delinquency and crime increase proportionately with the
crowding of the modern city, the boy offending five times to the girl's
once, and directing 80 per cent of his misdemeanors against property
rights. In the city of Chicago alone the 1909 records show that in one
year there passed through the courts 3,870 children under seventeen
years of age, 10,449 under twenty years, and 25,580 under twenty-five
years of age. But it is not the actual delinquency of which the law
takes account that most impresses one; it is rather the weight of
failure and mediocrity, the host of "seconds" and "culls" that the city
treatment of childhood produces.

The constrictions, vicissitudes, and instability of city life often make
such havoc of the home that the boy is practically adrift at an early
age. He has no abiding-place of sufficient permanency to create a wealth
of association or to develop those loyalties that enrich the years and
serve as anchorage in the storms of life. He moves from one flat to
another every year, and in many cases every six months. In such a
kaleidoscopic experience the true old-fashioned neighbor, whose
charitable judgment formerly robbed the law of its victims, is sadly
missed. Formerly allowance was made out of neighborly regard for the
parents of bothersome boys, but among the flat-dwellers of today
proximity means alienation, familiarity breeds contempt, and far from
being neighbors, those who live across the hall or above or below are
aggrieved persons who have to put up with the noise of an unknown rascal
whose parents, like themselves, occupy temporarily these restricted
quarters - these homes attenuated beyond recognition.

A garden plot, small live stock, pets, woodpile, and workshop are all
out of the question, for the city has deprived the average boy not only
of fit living quarters but of the opportunity to enact a fair part of
his glorious life-drama within the friendly atmosphere of home. He
cannot collect things with a view to proprietorship and construction and
have them under his own roof. The noise and litter incident to building
operations of such proportions as please boys will not be tolerated.
Moreover, this home, which has reached the vanishing point, makes almost
no demand for his co-operation in its maintenance. There are no chores
for the flat boy wherein he may be busy and dignified as a partner in
the family life. To make the flat a little more sumptuous and call it an
apartment does not solve the problem, and with the rapid decrease of
detached houses and the occupation of the territory with flat buildings
the city is providing for itself a much more serious juvenile problem
than it now has.

But the industrial usurpation takes toll of the family in other ways.
The intense economic struggle and the long distance "to work" rob the
boy of the father's presence and throw upon the mother an unjust burden.
To return home late and exhausted, to be hardly equal to the economic
demand, to see the prenuptial ideals fade, to pass from disappointment
to discouragement and from chronic irritability to a broken home is not
uncommon. The boy is unfortunate if the "incompatibility" end in
desertion or divorce, and equally unfortunate if it does not.

Owing to the fact that the male usually stands from under when the home
is about to collapse, and to the further fact that industrial accidents,
diseases, and fatalities in the city claim many fathers, there
frequently falls upon the mother the undivided burden of a considerable
family. If she goes out to work the children are neglected; if she takes
roomers family life of the kind that nurtures health and morality is at
an end. And just as the apparently fortunate boy of the apartment is
forced upon the street, so the boy from the overcrowded old-fashioned
house is pushed out by the roomers who must have first attention because
of bread-and-butter considerations. Much more could be said of all the
various kinds of neglect, misfortune, and avarice that commit boys to
the doubtful influences of the city street, but the main object is to
point out the trend of home life in the modern city without denying that
there are indeed many adequate homes still to be found, especially in
suburban districts.

A survey of the street and its allied institutions will throw light upon
the precocious ways of the typical city boy. The street is the
playground, especially of the small boy who must remain within sight and
call of home. Numerous fatalities, vigorous police, and big recreation
parks will not prevent the instinctive use of the nearest available open
area. If congestion is to be permitted and numerous small parks cannot
be had, then the street must have such care and its play zones must be
so guarded and supervised that the children will be both safe from
danger and healthfully and vigorously employed.

[Illustration: FIND THE PLAYGROUND]

In the busier parts of the city the constant street noise puts a nervous
tax upon the children; the proximity of so many bright and moving
objects taxes the eyes; the splash of gaudy and gross advertisements
creates a fevered imagination; slang, profanity, and vulgarity lend a
smart effect; the merchant's tempting display often leads to theft, and
the immodest dress of women produces an evil effect upon the mind of the
overstimulated adolescent boy; opportunities to elude observation and to
deceive one's parents abound; social control weakens; ideals become
neurotic, flashy, distorted; the light and allurement of the street
encourage late hours; the posters and "barkers" of cheap shows often
appeal to illicit curiosity, and the galaxy of apparent fun and
adventure is such as to tax to the full the wholesome and restraining
influence of even the best home.

The cheap show is an adjunct of the street and a potent educational
factor in the training of the city lad. These motion-picture shows have
an estimated daily patronage in the United States of two and a quarter
millions, and in Chicago 32,000 children will be found in them daily.
Many of these children are helplessly open to suggestion, owing to
malnutrition and the nervous strain which the city imposes; and harmful
impressions received in this vivid way late at night cannot be resisted.
At one time, after a set of pictures had been given on the West Side
which depicted the hero as a burglar, thirteen boys were brought into
court, all of whom had in their possession housebreakers' tools, and all
stated they had invested in these tools because they had seen these
pictures and they were anxious to become gentlemanly burglars.[4]
Through censorship bureaus, national and municipal, the character of the
films put on exhibition is being greatly improved, and the moving
picture is destined to a large use by educational and religious
agencies.

Many instances of valuable moving-picture exhibits come to mind,
including those on travel, nature-study, the passion play, athletic
sports, sanitation (especially the exhibits showing the breeding and
habits of the house-fly), and various others having to do with the
health, happiness, and morality of the people; and from the study of
hundreds of nickel shows one is forced in justice to say that although
there are dangers from the children's being out late at night and going
to such places unattended, and although the recreation is passive and
administered rather than secured by wholesome muscular exercise, yet
there has been brought within the reach of the entire family of moderate
means an evening of innocent enjoyment which may be had together and at
small expense. Properly regulated, it is an offset to the saloon and a
positive medium of good influence.

Such a commendation, however, can safely be made for those communities
only which take the pains to censor all films before exhibition is
permitted. In less than two years the censorship bureau of Chicago has
excluded one hundred and thirteen miles of objectionable films. It
should be said also that the vaudeville, which now often accompanies the
nickel and dime shows, is usually coarse and sometimes immoral. The
music, alas, speaks for itself and constitutes a sorry sort of education


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Online LibraryAllan HobenThe Minister and the Boy A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys' Work → online text (page 3 of 9)