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By Jane L. Stewart
“Yes. They’ll really be ever so much better off in the long run if it’s managed that way. Often and often, in the city, I’ve heard the people who work in the charity organizations tell about families that were quite ruined because they were helped too much.”
“I can see how that would be,” said Margery. “They would get into the habit of thinking they couldn’t do anything for themselves–that they could turn to someone else whenever they got into trouble.”
“Yes. You see these poor people are in the most awful sort of trouble now. They’re discouraged and hopeless. Well, the thing to do is to make them understand that they can rise superior to their troubles, that they can build a new home on the ashes of their old one.”
“Oh, I think it will be splendid if we can help them to do that!”
“They’ll feel better, physically, as soon as they have had a good dinner, Margery. Often and often people don’t think enough about that. It’s when people feel worst that they ought to be fed best. It’s impossible to be cheerful on an empty stomach. When people are well nourished their troubles never seem so great. They look on the bright side and they tell themselves that maybe things aren’t as bad as they look.”
“How can we help them otherwise, though?”
“Oh, we’ll fix up a place where they can sleep to—night, for one thing. And we’ll help them to start clearing away all the rubbish. They’ve got to have a new house, of course, and they can’t even start work on that until all this wreckage is cleared away.”
“I wonder if they didn’t save some of their animals–their cows and horses,” said Bessie. “It seems to me they might have been able to do that.”
“I hope so, Bessie. But we’ll find out when we have dinner. I didn’t want to bother them with a lot of questions at first. Look, they seem to be a little brighter already.”
The children of the family were already much brighter. It was natural enough for them to respond more quickly than their elders to the stimulus of the presence of these kind and helpful strangers, and they were running around, talking to the girls who were preparing dinner, and trying to find some way in which they could help.
And their mother began to forget herself and her troubles, and to watch them with brightening eyes. When she saw that the girls seemed to be fond of her children and to be anxious to make them happy, the maternal instinct in her responded, and was grateful.
“Oh, we’re going to be able to bring a lot of cheer and new happiness to these poor people,” said Eleanor, confidently. “And it will be splendid, won’t it, girls? Could anything be better fun than doing good this way? It’s something we’ll always be able to remember, and look back at happily. And the strange part of it is that, no matter how much we do for them, we’ll be doing more for ourselves.”
“Isn’t it fine that we’ve got those blankets?” said Dolly. “If we camp out here to—night they’ll be very useful.”
“They certainly will. And we shall camp here, though not in tents. Later on this afternoon, we’ll have to fix up some sort of shelter. But that will be easy. I’ll show you how to do it when the time comes. Now we want to hurry with the dinner–that’s the main thing, because I think everyone is hungry.”
GETTING A START
Often people who have been visited by great misfortunes become soured and suspect the motives of even those who are trying to help them. Eleanor understood this trait of human nature very well, thanks to the fact that as a volunteer she had helped out the charity workers in her own city more than once. And as a consequence she did not at all resent the dark looks that were cast at her by the poor woman whose every glance brought home to her more sharply the disaster that the fire had brought.
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