Beautiful Joe
Chapter 5, Page 4

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Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


CHAPTER V: MY NEW HOME AND A SELFISH LADY (continued)

"You have never been brought in contact with the lower creation as I have," said Mrs. Morris; "just let me tell you, in a few words, what a help dumb animals have been to me in the up-bringing of my children — my boys, especially. When I was a young married woman, going about the slums of New York with my husband, I used to come home and look at my two babies as they lay in their little cots, and say to him, 'What are we going to do to keep these children from selfishness — the curse of the world?'

"'Get them to do something for somebody outside themselves,' he always said. And I have tried to act on that principle. Laura is naturally unselfish. With her tiny, baby fingers, she would take food from her own mouth and put it into Jack's, if we did not watch her. I have never had any trouble with her. But the boys were born selfish, tiresomely, disgustingly selfish. They were good boys in many ways. As they grew older, they were respectful, obedient, they were not untidy, and not particularly rough, but their one thought was for themselves — each one for himself, and they used to quarrel with each other in regard to their rights. While we were in New York, we had only a small, back yard. When we came here, I said, 'I am going to try an experiment.' We got this house because it had a large garden, and a stable that would do for the boys to play in. Then I got them together, and had a little serious talk. I said I was not pleased with the way in which they were living. They did nothing for any one but themselves from morning to night. If I asked them to do an errand for me, it was done unwillingly. Of course, I knew they had their school for a part of the day, but they had a good deal of leisure time when they might do something for some one else. I asked them if they thought they were going to make real, manly Christian boys at this rate, and they said no. Then I asked them what we should do about it. They all said, 'You tell us mother, and we'll do as you say.' I proposed a series of tasks. Each one to do something for somebody, outside and apart from himself, every day of his life. They all agreed to this, and told me to allot the tasks. If I could have afforded it, I would have gotten a horse and cow, and had them take charge of them; but I could not do that, so I invested in a pair of rabbits for Jack, a pair of canaries for Carl, pigeons for Ned, and bantams for Willie. I brought these creatures home, put them into their hands, and told them to provide for them. They were delighted with my choice, and it was very amusing to see them scurrying about to provide food and shelter for their pets and hear their consultations with other boys. The end of it all is, that I am perfectly satisfied with my experiment. My boys, in caring for these dumb creatures, have become unselfish and thoughtful. They had rather go to school without their own breakfast than have the inmates of the stable go hungry. They are getting a humane education, a heart education, added to the intellectual education of their schools. Then it keeps them at home.

"I used to be worried with the lingering about street corners, the dawdling around with other boys, and the idle, often worse than idle, talk indulged in. Now they have something to do, they are men of business. They are always hammering and pounding at boxes and partitions out there in the stable, or cleaning up, and if they are sent out on an errand, they do it and come right home. I don't mean to say that we have deprived them of liberty. They have their days for base-ball, and foot-ball, and excursions to the woods, but they have so much to do at home, that they won't go away unless for a specific purpose."