Ten Days In Paradise
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ON the Fourth of last July there was the opening of new buildings at The Christian Herald Children's Home, at Nyack, N. Y., and I had the pleasure of taking a part in the exercises. The Home is a blessed charity.
In the beauty of the situation ; in the cleanliness, health and completeness of the buildings; in the quantity and quality of the food; in the wisdom of the management; in the fidelity of those who have the care of the little ones; in the variety and number of those who receive its blessings ; in the amount of genuine fun " to the square inch," and in the vigor of the moral and spiritual atmosphere of the place, there is perhaps no institution of the kind in all the world equal to it.
In the winter of 1894, the privation among the poor of New York City was so great that the subscribers of The Christian Herald furnished a bread fund, which afforded much relief. It was determined to continue the charity in fresh air work for the poor children of the city. Children from four to twelve years of age from the crowded tenement districts, many of them pitiable little waifs, are allowed ten days each at this beautiful country resort. There is an average population in the Home of from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy-five, though there have been at times three hundred guests entertained at one time. About two thousand enjoy the summer outing each year. Fourteen thou-sand have been entertained since the Home was founded, seven years ago.
What a relief the little ones have from the stifling heat, the bad air and worse morals of the slum districts.
City people sometimes laugh at the greenness of their country cousins. The ignorance of some of these children of the city concerning the country can scarcely be conceived. A little girl saw a chicken picking in the grass and said : " What a great big robin." She had never seen a chicken feeding, but she had seen robins at Central Park, when her Sunday School teacher took her there. A cow was looking out of a barn window and a little boy exclaimed, "O look at that big cat." There were plenty of cats and no cows in the Bowery. One of the little girls who was riding from the ferry in the stage, said : " This is the first carriage ride I ever had," then she paused and continued sadly, "I had one other when mother died, and I rode to the cemetery."
The children are wild with joy and gratitude. From the mail bag I have taken out a few scraps that give a hint of what the little folks think of the Home.
" Dear Mother. I am going to stay here 10 days. I get eat 3 times in a day. Then we go to sleep. The name of the country is Nyack. I send the best regards to all. Your loving son, Joe. Dear father and mother. I am very far from you—the air is very fresh and enuff the eating is very good an' they let me have all the eating I want. Your loving daughter, Bessie. Dear mamma. I will tell you something about the place where I am we like it very much here we could eat as much as we want and also drink milk. Tommy wants rite, too, but he can't. He don't have hedake no more an' he's got fat I wisht they'd let me stay three weeks like Tommy has. He says : " tell mamma, Ise dot well." Dear mother. Having a fine time. Blackberries are ripe. Willie. Dear mother. Instead of Baby crying, she is always laughing and forever eting she has a verry good appetite she laughs all the time in bed an' kicks me a great dele. She has got well. Annie. Dear mamma. They let me help make beds every morning. My teacher is so kind. I love to help. When I go home, I will bring you some flowers. Dear father. I am enjoying myself and I like this country an I hope you have got well an can get some work an I send 200 kisses. Johnny. Dear aunt. We like this country verry much we are up at five o'clock in the morning an go picking berries and have grand times. There's plenty to ete an milk an you can play on grass an there's scups an plenty of air here. Dear mother. I got here for supper I drank 4 mugs of nice fresh milk I am feeling verry good. It was jolly on the boat, an then we rode in the stage an we had hominy for breakfast an there's a nice new cottage called Hope Cottage an there's a tree behind it an it's got green apples on it an they wont let me ete 'em and so now no more from me at this time I am going to pick berries an swim in the pool an go up the mountain an there are scups here. Tom."
The most pathetic suggestion in these letters is that there is " plenty of air." God bless the poor little creatures half choked to death in the ovens of the city.
The Christ spirit which founded the Home is the chief characteristic of its work. There is no denominational instruction. But love for the Master is seen and felt in the yellow milk, the soft white bed, the romp on the lawn, the plunge in the pool, the gathering of wild flowers, the picking of berries, the listening to the birds, the happy songs, the solemn prayers. I do not think that the smallest or dullest child fails to understand that what is done for it is in the name of Jesus Christ.
The following incident will illustrate the Christ-like atmosphere of the Home. There was a little Italian girl by the name of Corinna, who interested the workers of the Home intensely. With her flashing dark eyes, her straight black locks, and her thin, sharp face, she looked like a little witch. Such bitter words she could say ! and such a strange, hard, rebellious spirit she showed ! She seemed to think every one's hand was against her and that her hand must be against every one. Her father had been killed by one he thought his friend; she had witnessed the deed ; hatred for her father's slayer was consuming her ; it was painful to hear falling from childish lips the vindictive, vengeful expressions she would utter. " When I'm big, I'll kill him !" she would say of the murderer. Her teacher talked with her about forgiveness. " Forgive ? " she exclaimed. " We Italians never forgive ! " How the Housemother and her helpers labored over this poor, passion-ate troubled little soul ! How they prayed for her ! and, at last, how thankful they were when they saw the fruits of their loving kindness appear in the softening of the warped child-nature. One day, with tears in her dark eyes, the little girl said, with quivering lips: " For Jesus' sake, I forgive ! " The change in her character was quick and radical ; her teachers could hardly believe the evidence of their senses when she became sweet, gentle and submissive.
About half the well dressed, well behaved, self-satisfied Christians of the world might listen with profit to the sermon of this sweet spirited, forgiving little Italian waif, whose heart was melted by the Saviour's love.
The greatest problem of the world today in the home and church is to take care of the children, their bodies, minds and souls for Jesus sake.