Sense Of Responsibility Toward Humanity
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
SUCH subjects as social service, love of humanity, and universal brotherhood should not be thrust upon children until they have learned to be kind and loving to those around them-their brothers and sisters and the servants of the household.
But when they approach the years of maturity-say eighteen or nineteen-it is certainly time for them to study the social conditions of the larger life. The family is a little kingdom with the parents at the head, and all the citizens of this little kingdom must learn that they are members one of another, just as there is in the body a perfect unity, "and the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." Very often "those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary," and in the family it often happens that some poor weakling turns out at last to be the real strength of the home. No one can be spared.
The boy of eighteen and the girl of the same age have almost arrived at manhood or womanhood, and there ought to be no difficulty with the parents in instructing them that they have actually entered upon a larger life with all its extended duties and responsibilities toward their fellow-creatures.
Daniel Webster said that the most important thought he ever conceived was his sense of responsibility. An old farmer in New England, who had a somewhat trying time of it day after day, used constantly to pray that he might never cease to be interested in his fellow-men. It is this sympathy with humanity that removes the unnatural conditions of isolation.
Leigh Hunt makes Abou Ben Adhem, who "loved his fellow-men," the one who "led all the rest" in the day of reckoning.
In the American family, with its steam-heat, regular water-supply, and the milk brought to the very door, it would seem that life is sometimes made too easy for the children, and they are apt to take it for granted that the world was made chiefly for them. To get all possible enjoyment out of life, without any thought of others, is an aim far too common nowadays among the younger members of a family. The mother should develop in her children of every age a general thoughtfulness for others. They should be taught that as the year comes round, with its many anniversaries, there are other birthdays than their own. Teach them to remember that the Master said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Then, when maturity arrives, this sense of responsibility toward humanity will blossom and bear rich fruit.
The young man and the young woman just entering the arena of life must realize that there are certain mutual obligations from which they cannot possibly escape, and that they cannot say with wicked Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" For nothing can be more clear than that in every walk of life we are members one of another.
This sense of mutual responsibility is the basis of true citizenship and true patriotism. Every member of the human family needs a helping hand, and the giving of this hand constitutes the freemasonry of everyday life. The man who believes that all men are brothers, and that the nation is but the extension of the family, is the ideal citizen.
This high sense of responsibility, as resting on each one, is well summed up in the words of Charles T. Brooks: " Every-thing which the real welfare of society requires, but which without tyranny could not be regulated by government, re-mains a responsibility on the conscience and honor of individuals."
Again and again in the Library this topic is treated in poem and prose. To begin with, read the "Song of Life," in Volume I, and "The Two Brothers," in Volume II. In Volume III " Don Quixote," "The Three Cakes," and "Prince Life" teach the same principle, though they are vastly different stories. "Tiny Tim " and "Hetty's Half-Crown," in Volume IV, are both admirable. Older children will find a great deal bearing upon the question in Volumes VII and VIII-accounts of heroism, and the devotion of great minds to scientific researches which benefit humanity. And in volume IX read the biographies of such unselfish, altruistic men as Abraham Lincoln, David Livingstone, and George Peabody.