The Minister and the Boy by Allan HobenA Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys’ Work

THE MINISTER AND THE BOY A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys’ Work by ALLAN HOBEN, PH.D. Associate Professor of Practical Theology, The University of Chicago Field Secretary of the Chicago Juvenile Protective Association 1912 PREFACE The aim of this book is to call the attention of ministers to the important place which boys’ work
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A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys’ Work


Associate Professor of Practical Theology, The University of Chicago Field Secretary of the Chicago Juvenile Protective Association



The aim of this book is to call the attention of ministers to the important place which boys’ work may have in furthering the Kingdom of God. To this end an endeavor is made to quicken the minister’s appreciation of boys, to stimulate his study of them, and to suggest a few practical ways in which church work with boys may be conducted.

The author is indebted to the Union Church of Waupun, Wis., and to the First Baptist Church of Detroit, Mich., for the opportunity of working out in actual practice most of the suggestions incorporated in this book. He is also indebted to many authors, especially to President G. Stanley Hall, for a point of view which throws considerable light upon boy nature. The Boy-Scout pictures have been provided by Mr. H.H. Simmons, the others by Mr. D.B. Stewart, Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen, and the author. The greatest contribution is from the boys of both village and city with whom the author has had the privilege of comradeship and from whom he has learned most of what is here recorded.

The material has been used in talks to teachers and clubs of various sorts, and in the Men and Religion Forward Movement. The requests following upon such talks and arising also from publication of most of the material in the _Biblical World_ have encouraged this attempt to present a brief handbook for ministers and laymen who engage in church work for boys.


CHICAGO, August 19, 1912





The Christian apologetic for today depends less upon the arguments of speculative theology and the findings of biblical science than upon sociological considerations. The church is dealing with a pragmatic public which insists upon knowing what this or that institution accomplishes for the common good. The deep and growing interest in social science, the crying needs that it lays bare, together with socialistic dreams of human welfare, compel Christian workers to pay more heed to the life that now is, since individualistic views of salvation in the world to come do not fully satisfy the modern consciousness.

Hence the ministry is compelled more and more to address itself to the salvation of the community and the nation after the fashion of the Hebrew prophets. Lines of distinction also between what is religious and what is secular in education and in all human intercourse have become irregular or dim; and the task of bringing mankind to fullness and perfection of life has become the task alike of the educator, the minister, the legislator, and the social worker. In fact, all who in any capacity put their hands to this noble undertaking are co-workers with Him whose divine ideal was to be consummated in the Kingdom of God on earth.

The ministry, therefore, is taking on a great variety of forms of service, and the pastor is overtaxed. The church, moreover, is slow to recognize the principle of the division of labor and to employ a sufficient number of paid officers. Only the pressing importance of work for boys can excuse one for suggesting another duty to the conscientious and overworked pastor. Already too much has been delegated to him alone. Every day his acknowledged obligations outrun his time and strength, and he must choose but a few of the many duties ever pressing to be done. Yet there is no phase of that larger social and educational conception of the pastor’s work that has in it more of promise than his ministry to boys. Whatever must be neglected, the boy should not be overlooked.

To answer this complex demand and the call of boyhood in particular the pastor must be a leader and an organizer. Otherwise, troubles and vicissitudes await him. In every field unused possibilities hasten the day of his departure. Idle persons who should have been led into worthy achievement for Christ and the church fall into critical gossip, and there soon follows another siege perilous for the minister’s freight-wracked furniture, another flitting experience for his homeless children, another proof of his wife’s heroic love, and another scar on his own bewildered heart.

It is, indeed, difficult for the pastor to adopt a policy commensurate with modern demands. He should lead, but on the other hand a very legitimate fear of being discredited through failure deters him; traditional methods hold the field; peace at any price and pleasurable satisfaction play a large part in church affairs; the adult, whose character is already formed, receives disproportionate attention; money for purposes of experimentation in church work is hard to get; everything points to moderation and the beaten path; and the way of the church is too often the way of least resistance. Small wonder if the minister sometimes capitulates to things as they are and resigns himself to the ecclesiastical treadmill.

It requires no small amount of courage to be governed by the facts as they confront the intelligent pastor, to direct one’s effort where it is most needed and where it will, in the long run, produce the greatest and best results. To be sure, the adult needs the ministry of teaching, inspiration, correction, and comfort to fit him for daily living; but, as matters now stand, the chief significance of the adult lies in the use that can be made of him in winning the next generation for Christ. In so far as the adult membership may contribute to this it may lay claim to the best that the minister has. In so far as it regards his ministry as a means of personal pleasure, gratification, and religious luxury, it is both an insult to him and an offense to his Master.

A successful ministry to boys, whether by the pastor himself or by those whom he shall inspire and guide, is fundamental in good pastoral work. Boys now at the age of twelve or fifteen will, in a score of years, manage the affairs of the world. All that has been accomplished–the inventions, the wealth, the experience in education and government, the vast industrial and commercial systems, the administration of justice, the concerns of religion–all will pass into their control; and they who, with the help of the girls of today, must administer the world’s affairs, are, or may be, in our hands now when their ideals are nascent and their whole natures in flux.

Boys’ work, then, is not providing harmless amusement for a few troublesome youngsters; it is the natural way of capturing the modern world for Jesus Christ. It lays hold of life in the making, it creates the masters of tomorrow; and may pre-empt for the Kingdom of God the varied activities and startling conquests of our titanic age. Think of the great relay of untamed and unharnessed vigor, a new nation exultant in hope, undaunted as yet by the experiences that have halted the passing generation: what may they not accomplish? As significant as the awakening of China should the awakening of this new nation be to us. In each case the call for leadership is imperative, and the best ability is none too good. Dabblers and incompetent persons will work only havoc, whether in the Celestial Empire or in the equally potent Kingdom of Boyhood. The bookworm, of course, is unfit even if he could hear the call, and the nervous wreck is doomed even if he should hear it; but the fit man who hears and heeds may prevent no small amount of delinquency and misery, and may deliver many from moral and social insolvency.

If a minister can do this work even indirectly he is happy, but if he can do it directly by virtue of his wholesome character, his genuine knowledge and love of boys, his athletic skill, and his unabated zest for life, his lot is above that of kings and his reward above all earthly riches.

Then, too, it is not alone the potential value of boys for the Kingdom of God, and what the minister may do for them; but what may they not do for him? How fatal is the boy collective to all artificiality, sanctimony, weakness, make-believe, and jointless dignity; and how prone is the ministry to these psychological and semi-physical pests! For, owing to the demands of the pulpit and of private and social intercourse, the minister finds it necessary to talk more than most men. He must also theorize extensively because of the very nature of theological discipline. Moreover, he is occupied particularly with those affairs of the inner life which are as intangible as they are important. His relation with people is largely a Sunday relation, or at any rate a religious one, and he meets them on the pacific side. Very naturally they reveal to him their best selves, and, true to Christian charity and training, he sees the best in everyone. If the women of his parish receive more than their proper share of attention the situation is proportionately worse. It follows that the minister needs the most wholesome contact with stern reality in order to offset the subtle drift toward a remote, theoretical, or sentimental world. In this respect commercial life is more favorable to naturalness and virility; while a fair amount of manual labor is conducive to sanity, mental poise, and sound judgment as to the facts of life. The minister must have an elemental knowledge of and respect for objective reality; and he must know human nature.

Now among all the broad and rich human contacts that can put the minister in touch with vital realities there is none so electric, so near to revelation as the boy. Collectively he is frank to the point of cruelty and as elemental as a savage. Confronted alone and by the minister, who is not as yet his chum, he reveals chiefly the minister’s helplessness. Taken in company with his companions and in his play he is a veritable searchlight laying bare those manly and ante-professional qualities which must underlie an efficient ministry. Later life, indeed, wears the mask, praises dry sermons, smiles when bored, and takes careful precautions against spontaneity and the indiscretions of unvarnished truth; but the boy among his fellows and on his own ground represents the normal and unfettered reaction of the human heart to a given personality. The minister may be profoundly benefited by knowing and heeding the frank estimate of a “bunch” of boys. They are the advance agents of the final judgment; they will find the essential man. May it not be with him as with Kipling’s Tomlinson, who, under the examination of both “Peter” and the “little devils,” was unable to qualify for admission either to heaven or hell:

And back they came with the tattered Thing, as children after play,
And they said: “The soul that he got from God he has bartered clean away.
We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind
And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find:
We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone,
And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own.”

Fortunately, however, ministerial professionalism is on the wane. Protestantism, in its more democratic forms, rates the man more and the office less, and present-day tests of practical efficiency are adverse to empty titles and pious assumption. To be “Reverend” means such character and deeds as compel _reverence_ and not the mere “laying on of hands.” Work with boys discovers this basis, for there is no place for the holy tone in such work, nor for the strained and vapid quotation of Scripture, no place for excessively feminine virtues, nor for the professional hand-shake and the habitual inquiry after the family’s health. In a very real sense many a minister can be saved by the boys; he can be saved from that invidious classification of adult society into “men, women, and ministers,” which is credited to the sharp insight of George Eliot.

The minister is also in need of a touch of humor in his work. The sadness of human failure and loss, the insuperable difficulties of his task, the combined woes of his parish, the decorum and seriousness of pulpit work–all operate to dry up the healthy spring of humor that bubbled up and overran in his boyhood days. What health there is in a laugh, what good-natured endurance in the man whose humor enables him to “side-step” disastrous and unnecessary encounters and to love people none the less, even when they provoke inward merriment. The boys’ pastor will certainly take life seriously, but he cannot take it somberly. Somewhere in his kind, honest eye there is a glimmer, a blessed survival of his own boyhood.

So, being ministered to by the comradeship of boys, he retains his sense of fun, fights on in good humor, detects and saves himself on the verge of pious caricature and solemn bathos; knows how to meet important committees on microscopic reforms as well as self-appointed theological inquisitors and all the insistent cranks that waylay a busy pastor. Life cannot grow stale; and by letting the boys lead him forth by the streams of living water and into the whispering woods he catches again the wild charm of that all-possible past: the smell of the campfire, the joyous freedom and good health of God’s great out-of-doors. Genius and success in life depend largely upon retaining the boyish quality of enthusiastic abandon to one’s cause, the hearty release of one’s entire energy in a given pursuit, and the conviction that the world is ever new and all things possible. The thing in men that defies failure is the original boy, and “no man is really a man who has lost out of him all the boy.”

The boy may also be a very practical helper in the pastor’s work. In every community there are some homes in which the pastor finds it almost impossible to create a welcome for himself. Misconceptions of long standing, anti-church sentiments, old grievances block the way. But if in such a home there is a boy whose loyalty the pastor has won through association in the boys’ club, at play, in camp–anywhere and anyhow–his eager hand will open both home and parental hearts to the wholesome friendship and kindly counsel of the minister of Christ. When the boy’s welfare is at stake how many prejudices fade away! The reliable sentiment of fathers and mothers dictates that he who takes time to know and help their boy is of all persons a guest to be welcomed and honored, and withal, a practical interpreter of Christianity. The pastor whose advance agent is a boy has gracious passport into the homes where he is most needed. He has a friend at court. His cause is almost won before he has uttered one syllable of a formal plea.

Further, it must be apparent to all intelligent observers that the churches in most communities are in need of a more visible social sanction for their existence. In the thought of many they are expensive and over-numerous institutions detached from the actual community life and needs. Boys’ work constitutes one visible strand of connection with the live needs of the neighborhood; and, human nature being what it is, this tangible service is essential to the formation of a just, popular estimate of the church and the ministry. Talk is easy and the market is always overstocked. The shortage is in deeds, and the doubtful community is saying to the minister, “What do you do?” It is well if among other things of almost equal importance he can reply, “We are saving your boys from vice and low ideals, from broken health and ruined or useless lives, by providing for wholesome self-expression under clean and inspiring auspices. The Corban of false sanctity has been removed; our plant and our men are here to promote human welfare in every legitimate way.” Boys’ work affords a concrete social sanction that has in it a wealth of sentiment and far-reaching implications.

Closely allied with this is the help that the boy renders as an advertiser. The boy is a tremendous promoter of his uppermost interest; and, while boys’ work must not be exploited for cheap and unworthy advertising purposes but solely for the good of the boy himself, the fact remains that the boy is an enterprising publicity bureau. The minister who gives the boy his due of love, service, and friendship will unwittingly secure more and better publicity than his more scholastic and less human brother. In the home and at school, here, there, and everywhere, these unrivaled enthusiasts sound the praises of the institution and the man. Others of their own kind are interested, and reluctant adults are finally drawn into the current. The man or church that is doing a real work for boys is as a city set on a hill.

The pastor needs the boys because his task is to enlist and train the Christians and churchmen of the future. These should be more efficient and devoted than those of the present, and should reckon among their dearest memories the early joyous associations formed within the church. Many thoughtful ministers are perplexed by the alienation of wage-earners from the church; but what could not be accomplished in the betterment of this condition if for one generation the churches would bend their utmost devotion and wisdom to maintaining institutions that would be worth while for all the boys of the community? A boy genuinely interested and properly treated is not going to turn his back upon the institution or the man that has given him the most wholesome enjoyment and the deepest impressions of his life. The reason why the church does not get and hold the boy of the wage-earner, or any other boy, is because it stupidly ignores him, his primary interests, and his essential nature; or goes to the extreme bother of making itself an insufferable bore.

The reflex influence of boys’ work upon the church herself should not be ignored. Here is a great plant moldering away in silence. Not to mention the auditorium, even the Sunday-school quarters and lecture-room are very little used, and this in communities trained to sharp economic insight and insisting already that the public-school buildings be made to serve the people both day and night and in social as well as educational lines.

The basement is perhaps the most vulnerable point in the armor of exclusive sanctity that encases the church. Here, if anywhere, organized church work for boys may be tolerated. Whenever it is, lights begin to shine from the basement windows several evenings a week, a noisy enthusiasm echoes through the ghostly spaces above, in a literal and figurative sense cobwebs are brushed away. The stir is soon felt by the whole church. A sense of usefulness and self-confidence begins to possess the minds of the members. Things are doing; and the dignity and desirability of having some part in an institution where things are doing inspires the members and attracts non-members.

It will be a sad day for the pastor and the church when they agree to delegate to any other institution all organized work for boys and especially those features which the boys themselves most enjoy. The ideal ministry to boyhood must not be centralized away from the church nor taken altogether out of the hands of the pastor. There is no place where the work can be done in a more personal way, and with less danger of subordinating the interests of the individual boy to mammoth institutional machinery and ambition, than in the church. The numerous small groups in the multitude of churches afford unequaled opportunity for intimate friendship, which was pre-eminently the method of Jesus, and for the full play of a man’s influence upon boy character.

The pastor who abdicates, and whose church is but a foraging ground for other institutions which present a magnificent exhibit of social service, may, indeed, be a good man, but he is canceling the charter of the church of tomorrow. It is at best a close question as to how the church will emerge from her present probation, and the pastor should be wise enough to reckon with the estimate in which the community and the boy hold him and the organization that he serves. And if he wants business men of the future who will respect and support the church, laboring men who will love and attend the church, professional men who will believe in and serve an efficient church, he must get the boys who are to be business men, wage-earners, and professional men, and he must hold them.

If he is concerned that there should be strong, capable men to take up the burden of church leadership in the future let him create such leadership in his own spiritual image from the plastic idealism of boyhood. Let the hero-worship age, without a word of compulsion or advice, make its choice with him present as a sample of what the minister can be, and tomorrow there will be no lack of virile high-class men in pulpit and parish. As a rule the ideals that carry men into the ministry are born, not in later youth nor in maturity, but in the period covered by the early high-school years; and the future leadership of the church is secure if the right kind of ministers mingle with boys of that age on terms of unaffected friendship and wholesome community of interest.

Then too there are the riches of memory and gratitude that bulk so large in a true pastor’s reward. If in the years to come the minister wishes to warm his heart in the glow of happy memories and undying gratitude, let him invest his present energy in the service of boys. If the minister could but realize the vast significance of such work, if he could feel the lure of those untold values lying like continents on the edge of the future awaiting discovery and development, if he could but know that he is swinging incipient forces of commanding personality into their orbits, directing destiny for the individual, predetermining for righteousness great decisions of the future, laying hold of the very kingdoms of this world for Christ, he surely would never again bemean himself in his own thought nor discount his peerless calling.

To be sure, there are certain satisfactions that a minister may lose all too quickly in these days. The spell of his eloquence may soon pass; the undivided love of all the people is no permanent tenure of him who speaks the truth even in love; speedy dissatisfaction and unbridled criticism are, alas, too often the practice of church democracy; but that man who has won the love of boys has thrown about himself a bodyguard whose loyalty will outmatch every foe.

In the hour of reaction from intense and unrewarded toil the empty chambers of the preacher’s soul may echo in bitterness the harsh misanthropy of a scheming world. Then it is that he needs the boys, the undismayed defenders of his faith. Let him name their names until the ague goes out of his heart and the warm compassion of the Man of Galilee returns. To be a hero and an ideal in the estimate of anyone is indeed a great call to the best that is in us; and when the minister, in the dark day or the bright, hears the acclaim of his bodyguard let him believe that it is the call of God to manhood that has the triple strength of faith, hope, and love.

All of this and much more they surely can and will do for him, and if the pastor who thinks that he has no field or who is getting a bit weary or professional in the routine ministry to unromantic middle life could but behold within his parish, however small, this very essence of vital reality, this allurement of unbounded possibility, this challenge of a lively paganism, and this greatest single opportunity to bring in the Kingdom of God, he would, in the very discovery of the boy and his significance, re-create himself into a more useful, happy, and genuine man. Is it not better to find new values in the old field than to pursue superficial values in a succession of new fields?



If the minister is to do intelligent work with boys he must have some knowledge of the ground plan of boyhood and he must believe that the boy both demands and merits actual study. Specific acquaintance with each one severally, alert recognition of individuality, variety, and even sport, and an ample allowance for exceptions to every rule will greatly aid in giving fitness to one’s endeavor; but beneath all of these architectural peculiarities lies the common biological foundation. To know the human organism genetically, to have some knowledge of the processes by which it reaches its normal organization, to appreciate the crude and elemental struggle that has left its history in man’s bodily structure, to think in large biological terms that include, besides “the physics and chemistry of living matter,” considerations ethnological, hereditary, and psychological, is to make fundamental preparation for the understanding of boyhood.

For the family to which the boy belongs is the human family. His parents alone and their characteristics do not explain him, nor does contemporary environment, important as that is. His ancestry is the human race, his history is their history, his impulses and his bodily equipment from which they spring are the result of eons of strife, survival, and habit. Four generations back he has not two but sixteen parents. Thus he comes to us out of the great physical democracy of mankind and doubtless with a tendency to re-live its ancient and deep-seated experiences.

This theory of race recapitulation as applied to the succeeding stages of boyhood may be somewhat more poetic than scientific. Genetically he does those things for which at the time he has the requisite muscular and nervous equipment, but the growth of this equipment gives him a series of interests and expressions that run in striking parallel to primitive life. If the enveloping society is highly civilized and artificial, much of his primitive desire may be cruelly smothered or too hastily refined or forced into a criminal course. But memory, experience, observation, and experiment force one to note that the parallel does exist and that it is vigorously and copiously attested by the boy’s likes and deeds. At the same time the theory is to be used suggestively rather than dogmatically, and the leader of boys will not imagine that to reproduce the primitive life is the goal of his endeavor. It is by the recognition of primitive traits and by connecting with them as they emerge that the guide of boyhood may secure an intelligent and well-supported advance.

Such an approach favors a sympathetic understanding of the boy. To behold in him a rough summary of the past, and to be able to capitalize for good the successive instincts as they appear, is to accomplish a fine piece of missionary work without leaving home. Africa and Borneo and Alaska come to you. The fire-worshiper of ancient times, the fierce tribesman, the savage hunter and fisher, the religion-making nomad, the daring pirate, the bedecked barbarian, the elemental fighter with nature and fellow and rival of every kind, the master of the world in making–comes before you in dramatic and often pathetic array in the unfolding life of the ordinary boy.

Our topmost civilization, although sustained and repleted by this original stuff, takes all too little account of these elemental traits. In the growing boy the ascending races are piled one on top of another. In him you get a longitudinal section of human nature since its beginning. He is an abridged volume on ethnology; and because he is on the way up and elected to rule, it is more of a mistake to neglect him than it is to neglect any of those races that have suffered a long-continued arrest at some point along the way. Of course anyone expecting to note by day and hour the initial emergence of this or that particular trait of primitive man will be disappointed. The thing for the friend of the boy to know is that in him the deep-set habits which made the human body the instrument it is, the old propensities of savage life are voices of the past, muffled, perhaps, but very deep and insistent, calling him to do the things which for ages were done and to make full trial of the physique which modern civilization threatens with disuse or perversion.

[Illustration: MIGHTY HUNTERS]

[Illustration: THE LURE OF THE WATER]

Let a number of the common traits of boyhood testify. There is the gang instinct which is noticeably dominant during the years from twelve to fifteen. Probably 80 per cent of all boys of this age belong to some group answering dimly to ancient tribal association and forming the first social circle outside the home. A canvass of the conditions of boy life in the Hyde Park district of Chicago revealed the existence of such gangs on an average of one to every two blocks, and the situation is not materially different in other parts of the city or in the smaller towns. The gang is thus the initial civic experiment for better or for worse, the outreach after government, co-operative power, and the larger self which can be found only in association. During this age and within his group the boy does not act as one possessing clear and independent moral responsibility. He acts as part of the gang, subject to its ideals, and practically helpless against its codes of conduct and its standards of loyalty.

One hot afternoon I ran across a group “in swimming” at a forbidden spot on the shore of Lake Michigan. As we talked and tended the fire, which their sun-blistered bodies did not need, one of the lads suddenly fired at me point-blank the all-important question, “What do you belong to?” Being unable to give an answer immediately favorable to our growing friendship, I countered with “What do _you_ belong to?” “Oh,” said he, “I belong to de gang.” “What gang?” “De gang on de corner of Fitty Fit and Cottage Grove.” “And what do you do?” “Ah, in de ev’nin’ we go out and ketch guys and tie ’em up.” Allowing for nickel-show and Wild-West suggestions, there remains a touch of a somewhat primitive exploit.

Another interesting gang was found occupying a cave in the saloon district of Lake Avenue. The cave takes precedence over the shack as a rendezvous because it demands no building material and affords more secrecy. Beneath the cave was a carefully concealed seven-foot sub-cellar which they had also excavated. This served as a guardhouse for unruly members and as a hiding-place for loot. When in conclave, each boy occupied his space on a bench built against the sides of the cave, his place being indicated by his particular number on the mud wall. This gang had forty-eight members and was led by a dissolute fellow somewhat older than the others, one of those dangerous boys beyond the age of compulsory education and unfitted for regular work. They played cards, “rushed the can,” and all hands smoked cigarettes. _Facilis descensus Averno._ The love of adventure and hunting was illustrated in the case of two other boys of this neighborhood who were but ten and eleven years of age. Having stolen eleven dollars and a useless revolver, they ran away to Milwaukee. When taken in hand by the police of that city they solemnly declared that they had “come to Wisconsin to shoot Injuns.”

Much could be said of the love of fire which has not yet surrendered all of its charm for even the most unromantic adult. The mystic thrill that went through the unspoiled nerves of pre-historic man and filled his mind with awe is with us still. The boy above all others yields to its spell. Further, by means of a fire he becomes, almost without effort, a wonderworking cause, a manipulator of nature, a miracle worker. Hence the vacant lots are often lighted up; barrels, boxes, and fences disappear; and one almost believes that part of the charm of smoking is in the very making of the smoke and seeing it unwind into greater mystery as did incense from thousands of altars in the long-ago.

This elemental desire to be a cause and to advertise by visible, audible, and often painful proofs the fact of one’s presence in the world is also basal. It is the compliment which noisy childhood and industrious boyhood insistently demand from the world about. Even the infant revels in this testimony, preferring crude and noisy playthings of proportion to the innocent nerve-sparing devices which the adult tries to foist upon him. The coal scuttle is made to proclaim causal relation between the self in effort and the not-self in response more satisfactorily than the rag doll; and the manifest glee over the contortions of the playful father whose hand is slapped is not innate cruelty but the delight of successful experiment in causation.

So of the noise and bluster, the building and destruction, the teasing and torture so often perpetrated by the boy. He is saying that he is here and must be reckoned with, and he wishes to make his presence as significant as possible. If home, school, and community conditions are such as to give healthful direction to both his constructive and destructive experimentation, all is well, but if society cannot so provide he will still exploit his causal relation although it must be in violation of law and order. The result is delinquency, but even in this he glories. It often gives a more pungent and romantic testimony than could otherwise be secured. It is the flaring yellow advertisement of misdirected effectiveness. Probably there mingles with this impulse the love of adventure as developed in the chase. “Flipping cars,” tantalizing policemen, pilfering from fruit stands are frequently the degenerate, urban forms of the old quest of, and encounter with, the game of forest and jungle.

Then there is the lure of the water, which explains more than half his school truancy during the open season. It is a fine spring or summer day. The _Wanderlust_ of his ancestry is upon the boy. The periodic migration for game or with the herds, the free range of wood and stream, or the excitement of the chase pulsates in his blood. Voices of the far past call to something native in him. The shimmer of the water just as they of old saw it, the joyous chance of taking game from its unseen depths, or of getting the full flush of bodily sensation by plunging into it, the unbridled pursuit of one’s own sweet will under the free air of heaven–these are the attractions over against which we place the school with its books, its restraint, and its feminine control; and the church with its hush and its Sunday-school lesson: and, too often, we offer nothing else. It is like giving a hungry woodchopper a doily, a Nabisco wafer, and a finger-bowl.

If we could but appreciate the great crude past whose conflicts still persist in the boy’s gruesome and tragic dreams, filling him with a fear of the dark, which fear in time past was the wholesome and necessary monitor of self-preservation; if we could only realize how strenuous must be those experiences which guarantee a strong body, a firm will, and an appetite for objective facts, we would not make our education so insipidly nice, so intellectual, so bookish, and so much under the roof. A school and a school building are not synonymous, a church and a church building are not synonymous; schooling is not identical with education, nor church attendance with religion. It is unfortunate if the boy beholds in these two essential institutions merely an emasculated police.

If either the church or the school is to reach the boy it will have to recognize and perform its task very largely beyond the traditional limits of the institution as such, and with a heartiness and masculinity which are now often absent. In this field the indirect and extra-ecclesiastical work of the minister will be his best work, and the time that the teacher spends with his pupils outside the schoolhouse may have more educational value than that spent within. In due time society will be ready to appreciate and support the educator who is bigger than any building; and outdoor schools are bound to grow in favor.

[Illustration: GETTING THE SPARK]

[Illustration: GETTING THE FLAME]

[Illustration: FIRE!]

Consider also the boy’s love of paraphernalia and all the tokens of achievement or of oneness with his group. The pre-adolescent boy glorying in full Indian regalia, the early-adolescent proud in the suit of his team or in his accouterments as a Scout, and a little later, with quieter taste, the persistent fraternity pin–all of these tell the same story of the love of insignia and the power of the emblem in the social control and development of youth. Think also of the collecting mania, which among primitives was less strong than is ordinarily supposed, but which in early boyhood reaches forth its hands, industriously, if not always wisely, after concrete, tactual knowledge and proprietorship. So also with the impulse to tussle and to revel in the excitement of a contest; inhibited, it explodes; neglected, it degenerates; but directed it goes far toward the making of a man. Evidence of this intensity, zest, and pressure of young life is never wanting. Disorder “rough-house,” and even serious accidents, testify to the reckless abandon which tries to compensate in brief space for a thousand hours of repression. Such occurrences are unfortunate but worse things may happen if the discharge of energy becomes anti-social, immoral, and vicious. “The evils of lust and drink are the evils that devour playless and inhibited youth.”

Right conceptions of religion and education must therefore attach an added sanctity to the growth of the body, since in and through it alone is the soul, so far as we know it, achieved. To accept the biological order as of God and to turn to their right use all of life’s unfolding powers constitutes a religious program. For even those primitive instincts which pass and perish often stir into consciousness and operation other more noble functions or are transmuted into recognized virtues. Popularly speaking, the tadpole’s tail becomes his legs. Success in suppressing the precivilized qualities of the boy results in a “zestless automaton” that is something less than a man. Everything that characterizes the boy, however bothersome and unpromising it may seem, is to be considered with reference to a developing organism which holds the story of the past and the prophecy of the future. To the apostle of the largest vision and the greatest hope, these native propensities will be the call of the man of Macedonia, saying, “Come over and help us.”

The most striking biological change that comes to the boy on his way to manhood is that of puberty. The church and the state have attested the vast importance of this experience for political and religious ends by their ceremonials of induction into the responsibilities of citizenship and the obligations of formal religion. Among the least civilized peoples these ceremonies were often cruel, superstitious, and long drawn out in their exaction of self-control, sacrifice, and subordination to the tribal will. The sagacity of the elders of the tribe in preserving their own control and in perpetuating totemic lore must compel the unfeigned admiration of the modern ethnologist.

The Athenians with their magnificent civilization exalted citizenship and the service of the state far beyond any modern attainment. The way of the youth today is tame, empty, and selfish as compared with the Spartan road to manhood and the Roman ceremonies attendant upon the assumption of the _toga virilis_. As a rule modern churches have too lightly regarded the profound significance of ancient confirmation services–Jewish, Greek, and Catholic. Knowledge of what transpires in the body and mind of adolescence proves the wisdom of the ancients and at the same time attracts both the educator and the evangelist to study and use the crises of this fertile and plastic period.

The process of transformation from childhood into manhood begins in the twelfth or thirteenth year, passes its most acute stage at about fifteen, and may not complete itself until the twenty-fifth year. It is preceded by a period of mobilization of vitality as if nature were preparing for this wonderful re-birth whereby the individualistic boy becomes the socialized progenitor of his kind.

The normal physiological changes, quite apart from their psychological accompaniments, are such as to elicit the sympathy of intelligent adults. Early in pubescent growth the heart increases by leaps and bounds, often doubling its size in the course of two years or even one year. There is a rise of about one degree in the temperature of the blood and the blood pressure is increased in all parts of the body. The entire body is unduly sensitized, and the boy is besieged by an army of new and vivid sense impressions that overstimulate, confuse, and baffle him. He is under stress and like all persons under tension he reacts extremely and hence inconsistently in different directions. He cannot correlate and organize his experiences. They are too vivid, varied, and rapid for that. This over-intensity begets in turn excessive languor and he cannot hold himself in _via media_.

His physical condition explains his marked moods: his sudden changes of front, his ascent of rare heights of impulsive idealism, and his equally sudden descent into the bogs of materialism; his unsurpassed though temporary altruism and his intermittent abandon to gross selfishness. He has range. He is a little more than himself in every direction. The wine of life is in his blood and brain. It is no wonder that somewhere about the middle of the adolescent period both conversions and misdemeanors are at their maximum.

To make matters worse these vivid and unorganized experiences, simply because they lie along the shore of the infinite and have no single clue, no governing philosophy of life, are overswept by the dense and chilling fogs of unreality that roll in from the great deep. Life is swallowed up in awful mystery. External facts are less real than dreams. One stamps the very ground beneath his feet to know if it exists. The ego which must gauge itself by external bearings is temporarily adrift and lost. Suicidal thoughts are easily evoked; and at such times the luxury of being odd and hopelessly misunderstood constitutes a chameleon-like morbidity that, with a slight change of light and color, becomes an obsession of conceit. The odd one, the mystery to self and others, is he not the great one that shall occupy the center of the stage in some stupendous drama? A man now prominent in educational circles testifies how that on a drizzly night on the streets of old London the lad, then but sixteen years of age, came to a full stop, set his foot down with dramatic pose, and exclaimed with soul-wracking seriousness:

The time is out of joint;–O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!

So is it ever with the adolescent soul unless society curses the desire for significance and makes it criminal.

These bare cliffs of primal personality have not yet undergone the abrasion of the glacial drift nor of the frost and the heat, the wind and the rain of long years. They are angular, bold, defiant, and unsuited to the pastoral and agricultural scenes of middle life. The grind of life with its slow accomplishment and failure has not as yet imparted caution and discretion. Shrewd calculation and niggardliness too are normally absent. Generous estimates prevail. Idealism is passionate and turns its eye to summits that a life-time of devotion cannot scale. Honor is held in high regard and select friendships may have the intensity of religion. Judgments are without qualification. Valor, laughter and fun, excess and the love of victory mingle in hot profusion. Except in the case of the precocious boy of the street, the cold vices of cynicism, misanthropy, and avarice–the reptilians of society–are found almost exclusively among adults. The _younger_ brother is the prodigal. Experience has not taught him how to value property and the main chance.

The failure of self-knowledge and self-control to keep pace with the rapid changes of bodily structure, sense-impressions, and mental organization is nowhere more marked and significant than in sex development; and the common experience of adolescent boys is to the effect that no other temptations equal in persistence and intensity those that attend and follow this awakening. It is highly important, then, that, as preparation for dealing with the individual, the minister shall both see the generic boy upon the background of the past and that he shall also understand in some measure the physical basis and psychological ferment of the boy’s inevitable re-birth, not for the purpose of cheaply exploiting adolescence but in order that he may bring every life to its best in terms of personal character and of worth to the world.



From the consideration of bodily health the village boy is better off than his city cousin. He also enjoys to a far greater degree the protective and educative attention of real neighborhood life. The opinions and customs which help to mold him are more personal. He probably holds himself more accountable, for he can more readily trace the results of any course of action in terms of the welfare and good-will of well-known persons. His relation to nature is also more nearly ideal. Artificial restrictions, territorial and otherwise, are not so strictly imposed. His lot favors a sane and normal view of life. There are more chores to be done, more inviting occupations in the open, and altogether there may be a more wholesome participation in the work of maintaining the home than is possible for the city boy.

On the other hand, the static character of village life leaves the boy with little inspiration in his primary interests of play and his serious ideals of the noblest manhood. Idle hours work demoralization and the ever-present example of the village loafer is not good. A disproportionate number of village people lack public spirit and social ideals. The masculine element most in evidence is not of the strongest and most inspiring kind, and the village is all too often the paradise of the loafer and the male gossip. This, however, cannot be said of the small frontier town where the spirit of progress is grappling with crude conditions.

Furthermore, the village is sadly incompetent in the organization of its welfare and community work. As a matter of fact, social supervision is often so lax that obscene moving pictures and cards that are driven out of the large cities are exhibited without protest in the small towns. Usually the village is overchurched, and consequently divided into pitiably weak factions whose controlling aim is self-preservation. Seldom can a religious, philanthropic, or social organization be developed with sufficient strength to serve the community as such.

The sectarian divisions which in the vast needs and resources of great cities do not so acutely menace church efficiency prove serious in the small town. The saloon, poolroom, livery stable, and other haunts of the idle are open for boys; but the Christian people, because of their denominational differences, maintain no social headquarters and no institution in which boys may find healthy expression for their normal interests. The Y.M.C.A. is impracticable, because the church people are already overtaxed in keeping up their denominational competition and so cannot contribute enough to run an association properly. Wherever an association cannot be conducted by trained and paid officers it will result in disappointment.

The caricature of essential Christianity which is afforded by the denominational exhibit in the village works great harm to boys. It is not only that they are deprived of that guidance which true Christianity would give them, but they are confronted from the first with a spectacle of pettiness, jealousy, and incompetency which they will probably forever associate with Christianity, at least in its ecclesiastical forms. Villages are at best sufficiently susceptible to those unfortunate human traits that make for clique and cleavage in society, and when the Christian church, instead of unifying and exalting the community life, adds several other divisive interests with all the authority of religion, the hope of intelligent, united, and effective 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.


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.



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.


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 except in the foreign quarters of our great cities where, in conformity to a better taste, it becomes classic and valuable.

But to describe a typical film of the better sort and to indicate its practical use may have some suggestive value for wide-awake ministers who wish to turn to good account every legitimate social agency. During the Christmas season of 1911 the following film story was set forth to vast audiences of people with telling effect: In a wretched hovel you see a lame mother with three pale children. The rich young landlord comes to collect rent and is implored to improve the place. This he refuses to do because of his small returns on the property. He departs. The father of the family returns from work. They eat the bread of the desolate.

The landlord marries and sets out on an ocean voyage with his bride. On the same ship the father of the tubercular family, working as stoker or deck hand, reaches the last stages of the disease and in his dying hours is mercifully attended by the bride. She contracts the disease and later appears weak and fading. The husband, ascertaining the real nature of her malady, brings her home with the purpose of placing her in the private sanitarium. There is no room in this institution, but good accommodations are found in the public sanitarium to which she goes and where she finds the children from their tenement.

The facts have now been put in such juxtaposition that the husband has a change of heart. The patients recover and the landlord endows a great sanitarium for the tuberculous. One may easily criticize the crudeness of the plot and the improbabilities with which it bristles. But it sets forth love and death and conversion and an appeal to rescue those who suffer from the great white plague: and this was sufficient for the crowd, for all are children when beholding the elemental things of life. At any rate the women who stood at the exits of the theater selling the Christmas stamps of the anti-tuberculosis society will tell you that the purse strings as well as the heart strings of the crowd relaxed to the crude but deep melody of mercy.

The social hunger also, turning its back upon the meager home and heightened by the monotony and semi-independence of early toil, takes to the street. The quest is quickly commercialized and debauched by the public dance halls which are controlled by the liquor interests. A recent thorough investigation of 328 of these halls in Chicago showed a nightly attendance of some 86,000 young people, the average age of the boys being sixteen to eighteen years and of the girls fourteen to sixteen years. Liquor was sold in 240 halls, 190 had saloons opening into them, in 178 immoral dancing went on unhindered. The worst halls had the least dancing and the longest intermissions. Everything was conducted so as to increase the sale of liquor, and between the hours of one and three A.M. the toughest element from the saloons, which close at one o’clock, poured into the halls to complete the debauch and to make full use of the special liquor license which is good until the later hour.[5]

The quest of fun and social adventure can be traced also through other commercialized channels, in public poolrooms where minors waste time and money–gamble, smoke, tell unclean stories and plan mischief; in great amusement parks where the boy and girl on pleasure bent meet as strangers to each other and without social sponsor, where the deluded girl not only accepts but often invites a generosity which will tend to compromise if not break down the morality of both; on excursion boats which, if neglected, tend to become floating palaces of shame; and in many ways that lead from the inadequate home to sorrow and disaster.

It is to be doubted whether the average pastor or parent has an adequate conception of the tremendous odds against which the moral forces contend for the conservation of the city’s childhood and youth, and whether we have as yet begun to solve the problems that arise from the city’s sinister treatment of the home. Public parks, field-houses, libraries, and social settlements graciously mitigate the evil, but are far from curing it.

To turn to the public schools with the expectation that they can immediately, or at length, make good the injury done the home by industrial usurpation is to expect more than is fair or possible. They are doing valiantly and well, they are becoming social centers and in due time they will have more adequately in hand both the vocational and recreational interests of youth. With this accession of educational territory will come a proportionate increase in the number of male teachers, and a further diminution of the fallacy that the only kind of order is silence and the prime condition of mental concentration inaction. The system will become less and the boy more important.

But the whole community is the master educator; the best home is not exempt from its influence nor the best school greatly superior to its morality. In fact the school, even as the place of amusement and all places of congregation, serves to diffuse the moral problems of boyhood throughout the whole mass. Moral sanitation is more difficult than physical sanitation, and the spoiled boy is a good conductor of various forms of moral virus. The moral training involved in the ordinary working of the public school is considerable and is none the less valuable because it is indirect. With more attention to physical condition, corrective exercise, and organized play, and with the motivating of a larger area of school work, the moral value of the institution will be still further enhanced.

The church addresses itself to the problem in ways both general and specific, positive and negative. In its stimulation of public conscience, in its inspiration of those who work directly for improved conditions, and in Sunday schools and young people’s societies, a contribution of no small value is continually made. A rather negative, or at best, concessive attitude toward recreation and a disposition to rest satisfied with the denunciation of harmful institutions and activities militates against her greatest usefulness. She must rather compensate for home shortages and compete with the doubtful allurements of the city. This she may do in part within her own plant and in part by encouraging and supporting all wholesome outlets for the athletic zest, social adventure, worthy ambition, and vocational quest of youth. Those segments of the church which believe in bringing every legitimate human interest within the scope and sanction of religion will in the nature of things offer a more immediate and telling competition to the harmful devices of the city.

But with the exception of a few boys’ clubs and scout patrols, for whose direction there is always a shameful shortage of willing and able lay leadership, the church has not as yet grasped the problem; and this remains true when one grants further the value of organized boys’ classes in the Sunday school and of the “socials” and parties of young people’s societies. To be sure, the Protestant church, expressing itself through the Young Men’s Christian Association, has laid hold of the more respectable edge of the problem. But with few exceptions this work is not as yet missionary, militant, or diffused to the communities of greatest need. A few experiments are now being made, but probably the Y.M.C.A., more than the individual church, is under the necessity of treating the underlying economic evils with a very safe degree of caution; and in both there is the ever-recurrent need of an unsparing analysis of motive for the purpose of ascertaining which, after all, is paramount–human welfare or institutional glory.

The tendency ever is to cultivate profitable and self-supporting fields and sound business policies. But the case of thousands upon thousands of boys living in localities that are socially impoverished, unfortunate, and debasing constitutes a call to the missionary spirit and method. If the impulse which is so ready and generous in the exportation of religion and so wise in adaptation to the interests and abilities of the foreign group could but lay hold of our most difficult communities with like devotion and with scientific care there would be developed in due time advanced and adequate methods, which in turn would take their rightful place as a part of civic or educational administration.

As is illustrated in both education and philanthropy, the function of the church in social development has been of this order, and the mistake of short-sighted religious leaders has been to desert these children when once they have found an abode within the civil structure. The pastoral spirit of the new era claims again the entire parish, however organized, and guards its children still. The pioneer is needed at home just as he is needed abroad, and the pioneering agency must have the same zeal and freedom in order to mark out the way of salvation for hordes of wild city boys who are the menacing product of blind economic haste.

[Illustration: WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH ME?]

The church should see this big problem and accept the challenge. Society should awaken to the fact that in our large cities there is growing up a generation of boys who morally “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand”–this through no fault of theirs, for they are but a product. If they are unlovely, “smart,” sophisticated, ungrateful, and predatory, what has made them so? Who has inverted the prophetic promise and given them ashes for beauty and the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise? As matters now stand it is not the ninety and nine who are safe and the one in peril. That ratio tends to be reversed, and will be unless right-minded people accept individually and in their organized relations a just responsibility for the new life that is committed for shaping and destiny to the evolving modern city.



The value of work as a prime factor in character building must not be overlooked. In the revival of play that is sweeping over our American cities and in the tendency to eliminate effort from modern education there is danger of erecting a superficial and mere pleasure-seeking ideal of life. It is upon the background of the sacred value of work that the equally legitimate moral factor of play is here considered. Further, the value of _undirected_ play in cultivating initiative, resourcefulness, and imagination, especially in young children, is worth bearing in mind. One must grant also that play is not always enlisted in the service of morality. But neither is religion. Both may be. At any rate it is evident that when boy nature is subjected to city conditions we must either provide proper outlet and guidance for the boy’s play instincts or be guilty of forcing him into the position of a law-breaker and a nuisance.

Reduced to its lowest terms, organized play is thus recognized as a convenient substitute for misconduct. Even the property owner and peace-loving citizen, if moved by no higher motive, will agree to the adage that “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do,” and will welcome the endeavor to safeguard property rights and promote the peace of the community by drawing off the adventurous and mischief-making energies of the boys into the less expensive channels of play. Practical men are quite agreed that it is better for “gangs” to release their energy and ingenuity against one another in a series of athletic games than to seek similar adventure and satisfaction in conflict with established property rights and the recognized agencies of peace and order.

Nevertheless there persists in the church, however unconsciously, a sort of piety that disregards the body, and the conventional Christian ideal has certainly been anemic and negative in the matter of recreation. The Young Men’s Christian Associations with their reproduction of the Greek ideal of physical well-being have served to temper the other-worldly type of Christianity with the idea of a well-rounded and physically competent life as being consonant with the will of God.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century Francke of Halle, an educational organizer and philanthropist of no mean proportion, said, “Play must be forbidden in any and all of its forms. The children shall be instructed in this matter in such a way as to show them, through the presentation of religious principles, the wastefulness and folly of all play. They shall be led to see that play will distract their hearts and minds from God, the Eternal Good, and will work nothing but harm to their spiritual lives.”

Only gradually does “the-world-as-a-vale-of tears” and “the-remnant-that-shall-be-saved” idea give place to a faith that claims for God the entire world with its present life as well as individual immortality in future felicity. Miracle and cataclysm and postmortem glory–the ever-ready recourse of baffled hope and persecuted Christianity–are giving place more and more to a Christian conquest that is orderly and inclusive of the whole sweep of human life. The church is but dimly conscious, as yet, that through the aid of science she has attained this magnificent optimism; much less does she realize its full implication for social service and the saving of the individual, both body and soul.

The minister as the herald and exemplar of such an imperial salvation cannot ignore the exceptional opportunities which the play interests of boyhood offer. He whose task has been to reconcile men to God, to bring them into harmony with the universe in its ultimate content, cannot neglect those activities which more than anything else in the life of the boy secure the happy co-ordination of his powers, the placing of himself in right relation with others and in obedience to law. These are the moral and religious accomplishments aimed at in the teaching of reconciliation which bulks so large in Christian doctrine; and by whatever means this right adjustment to self, to others, and to the will of God is brought about, it always produces the sure harvest of service and joy.

To some undoubtedly it will seem sacrilegious to suggest that play can have anything to do in a transaction so deeply moral and so fundamentally religious. Yet a psychological analysis of both play and worship at their best will reveal marked similarities in spontaneity, in self-expression for its own sake and free from ulterior ends, in symbolism, semi-intoxication and rhythm, in extension and enrichment of the self, and in preparation for the largest and most effective living. That such a claim is not altogether extravagant may be demonstrated in part by canvassing the moral reactions of a well-organized group engaged in some specific game. For in merely discussing the play attitude, which is applicable to every interest of life, there is the danger of so sublimating the value of play that its importance, while readily granted, will not affect pastoral or educational methods. This mistake is only comparable with another which dwells upon the religious life of the boy as dependent upon the use of some inherent religious faculty that is quite detached from the normal physical and mental processes. Such an attitude favors an easy escape from both the labor of character building and the obligations of environmental salvation. Recognizing these dangers and remembering that morality and religion are most valid when acquired and incorporated in actual conduct, one may analyze a standard game in search of its ethical worth.

Baseball, our most popular and distinctively national game, constitutes a fair field for this inquiry. In order to evaluate this form of play as an agency in moral training it is necessary to presume that one has a company of nine or more boys grouped together on the basis of loyalty to a common neighborhood, school, club, church, or the like. They elect a manager who acts for the team in arranging a schedule of games with their various rivals and who serves in general as their business agent; also a captain, usually chosen because of his ability to play the game and his quality of natural leadership. He directs his players in their contests and in case of dispute speaks for his team.

The boys should also have in every case a trainer older than themselves, a player of well-known ability and exemplary character. It is usually through neglect of supervision of this sort that the ethical value of baseball for boys of from twelve to fifteen years of age is forfeited. Without the trainer to direct their practice games, and as a recognized expert to try out the players for the various positions, the possibilities of forming a team are few and those of unjust and harmful conduct many.

If at the outset, the group, coming together in park or vacant lot, cannot speedily agree upon a _modus operandi_, their energy is turned into profane disputing about the chief positions, and usually a game cannot be organized, or, if it is, lack of agreement as to put-outs, runs, fouls, and debatable points soon ruins the attempt, with little left to most of the boys except resentment of the might-makes-right policy. On the other hand, whether one has in mind a team or a chance group of players, the presence of a capable adult as an immediate and final court of appeal guarantees fair play for all, prevents personal animosities, and inspires each one to do his best in the presence of a competent judge.

Wherever the team with proper supervision is a possibility the moral value of the game will be at its maximum. Uniforms are not to be despised. Loyalty to the school represented is but boyhood’s form of what in later life becomes ability to espouse a cause and to assume a degree of social responsibility in keeping with that attitude.

Because of this loyalty the boy who expected to play in the prominent position of pitcher takes his less conspicuous place in right field, if by fair trials under the trainer another boy has demonstrated his superior fitness to fill the much-coveted position. For the credit of the community or school which he has the honor to represent, the match game must be won; hence he surrenders his personal glory to the common good. He does more. Under the excitement of the contest and with the consequent strengthening of the team spirit, he encourages the very boy, who would otherwise have been only his personal rival, to do his level best, forgetting utterly any mean individual comparisons and all anti-social self-consciousness, in what he has enthusiastically accepted as the greater common good.

He goes to bat at a critical juncture in the game. The score is close. He as much as anyone would like to have runs to his credit. But for the sake of the team his chief concern must be to advance the base runner. So he plays carefully rather than spectacularly, and makes a bunt or a sacrifice hit, with the practical certainty that he will be put out at first base, but with a good probability that he will thus have advanced his fellow one base and so have contributed to the team’s success.

The religious value of the principle here involved receives no little attention in sermon and Sunday-school class, but how tame and formal is its verbal presentation as compared with its registration in the very will and muscles of a boy at play! Wherever a state has become great or a cause victorious, wherever a hero–a Socrates or a Christ–has appeared among men, there has been the willingness, when necessary, to make the “sacrifice hit.” The loyalty that has held itself ready so to serve on moral demand has to its credit all the higher attainments of humanity.

In the great American experiment of democracy, where the welfare of the people is so often bartered for gold, and where public office is frequently prostituted to private gain, there is a proportionately great need of teaching in every possible way this fundamental virtue of loyalty. Our future will be secure only in the degree in which intelligent and strong men are devoted to the welfare of city and state after the fashion of the boy to his team. It is because war, with all its horrors, has stimulated and exhibited this virtue that its glory persists far into our industrial age; and the hope of a lofty patriotism, that shall be equal to the enervating influences of peace, lies in an educated and self-denying type of loyalty.

The use of this loyalty in the reformation of boy criminals has been remarkably demonstrated in the well-known work of Judge Ben B. Lindsey, of Denver. In a particularly difficult case he says:

I decided to put my influence over him to the test. I told him of the fight I was making for him, showed him how I had been spending all my spare time “trying to straighten things out” for him and Heimel, and warned him that the police did not believe I could succeed. “Now, Lee,” I said, “you can run away if you want to, and prove me a liar to the cops. But I want to help you and I want you to stand by me. I want you to trust me, and I want you to go back to the jail there, and let me do the best I can.” He went, and he went alone–unguarded.

Here is a striking example of the team work of two with the play upon loyalty and the spirit of contest.

Another lesson about boys I learned from little “Mickey” when I was investigating his charge that the jailer had beaten him. The jailer said: “Some o’ those kids broke a window in there, and when I asked Mickey who it was, he said he didn’t know. Of course he knew. D’yu think I’m goin’ to have kids lie to me?” A police commissioner who was present turned to Mickey. “Mickey,” he said, “why did you lie?” Mickey faced us in his rags. “Say,” he asked, “Do yoh t’ink a fullah ought to snitch on a kid?” And the way he asked made me ashamed of myself. Here was a quality of loyalty that we should be fostering in him instead of trying to crush out of him. It was the beginning in the boy of that feeling of responsibility to his fellows on which society is founded. Thereafter,

no child brought before our court was ever urged to turn state’s evidence against his partners in crime–much less rewarded for doing so or punished for refusing. Each was encouraged to “snitch” on himself, and himself only.

Another interview with a boy under sentence to the industrial school emphasizes the same point:

“I can _help_ you, Harry,” I said. “But you’ve got to carry yourself. If I let boys go when they do bad things, I’ll lose my job. The people ‘ll get another judge in my place to punish boys, if _I_ don’t do it. I can’t let you go.” We went over it and over it; and at last I thought I had him feeling more resigned and cheerful, and I got up to leave him. But when I turned to the door he fell on his knees before me and, stretching out his little arms to me, his face distorted with tears, he cried: “Judge! Judge! If you let me go, _I’ll never get you into trouble again_!”

I had him! It was the voice of loyalty…. This time he “stuck.” “Judge,” the mother told me long afterward, “I asked Harry the other day, how it was he was so good for _you_, when he wouldn’t do it for me or the policeman. And he says: ‘Well, Maw, you see if I gets bad ag’in the Judge he’ll lose his job. I’ve got to stay with him, ’cause he stayed with me.'” I have used that appeal to loyalty hundreds of times since in our work with the boys, and it is almost infallibly successful.

In eight years, out of 507 cases of boys put upon their honor to take themselves from Denver to the Industrial School at Golden, to which the court had sentenced them, Judge Lindsey had but five failures. In view of such facts, who will think for a moment that we have so much as begun to turn the latent loyalty of boyhood to its highest ethical use?

No doubt much can be said against football, which ranks second in popularity among American athletic games. For some years the elements of hazard and rough treatment have been unhappily too prominent, so that the suspicion is warranted that players have been sacrificed to the bloodthirsty demands of the vast throng of spectators. The tension of playing in the presence of thousands of partisan enthusiasts shows itself in a reckless disregard of physical injury. Furthermore, for boys in early adolescence the tax upon the heart constitutes a common danger which is often rendered more serious by the untrained condition of the players. It is to be hoped that in the further modification of the rules from year to year, the players and their welfare will be kept more in mind and the sensation-loving public, whose gate-fees have been too big a consideration, will be measurably overlooked.

But with this concession, all of the virtue that attaches to baseball will be found in football, only in accentuated form. Physical bravery is, of course, more emphasized; while team loyalty, with all that it implies, is more intense. The relation of the members to one another in a well-organized team amounts to an affection which is never forgotten. The words of cheer when the team is hard pushed and has to take a “brace”; the fighting spirit that plays the game to a finish, no matter what the odds; the hand extended to help to his feet the man who has just advanced the ball; the pat on the back; the impulsive embrace; the very tears shed in common after a lost game–all of this is a social and moral experience of no small value. Basketball also offers a good field for the subordination of personal glory to team success and, in point of intensity, stands midway between baseball and football with the elimination of the dangerous qualities of the latter.


Games of this sort are also the most effective means of developing, through expression, the boy’s sense of justice or fair play. And this sentiment will always be found strong and operative in him unless it has been overcome by the passion to win or by imitation of the bad example of certain debased athletes, popularly known as “muckers.” Under proper leadership, the boy soon learns that the true spirit of manly sport is the farthest removed from that of the footpad and the blackguard. Appreciation of successful opponents and consideration for the vanquished can be made effectually to supplant the cheap, blatant spirit which seeks to attribute one’s defeat to trickery and chance and uses one’s victory as an occasion for bemeaning the vanquished. The presence of a capable director of play is sure to eliminate this evil which has crept in under the sanction of vicious ideals and through gross neglect of boys’ play on the part of adults in general and educators in particular. The Decalogue itself cannot compete with a properly directed game in enforcing the fair-play principle among boys. It is worth something to read about fair play, but it is worth much more to practice it in what is, for the time being, a primary and absorbing interest.

A large part of the morality which is most obviously desirable for human welfare consists in bringing the body into habitual obedience to the will. The amount of individual suffering and of loss and expense to society due to failure in this struggle is nothing less than appalling. The victims of emotional hurricanes, “brainstorms,” neurotic excess, and intemperate desire are legion. A nation that is overfed, under-exercised, and notably neurasthenic should neglect nothing that makes for prompt and reliable self-control. Lycurgus said, “The citizens of Sparta must be her walls,” and in building up a defense for the modern state against forces more disastrous than Persian armies we must turn to the ancient device of the playground and athletic games.

The moral value of play in this respect arises from the instant muscular response to volition. Delay, half-hearted response, inattention, preoccupation, whimsicalness, carelessness, and every sluggish performance of the order of the will, disqualifies the player so that when we take into account the adolescent passion to excel, and the fact that 80 per cent of the games of this period are characterized by intense physical activity, we are forced to place the highest valuation on play as a moral educator; for this enthronement of the will over the body, although having to do with affairs of no permanent importance, has great and abiding value for every future transaction in life.

Indeed, the physical competency attained in athletic games has its reaction upon every mental condition. Many boys who are hampered by unreasonable diffidence, a lack of normal self-confidence and self-assertion, find unexpected ability and positiveness through this avenue alone and, on the other hand, the physical test and encounter of the game serves to bring a proper self-rating to the overconfident.

Dr. George J. Fisher, international secretary of the Physical Department of the Young Men’s Christian Association, says, “An unfortunately large number of our population haven’t the physical basis for being good.” No one with even the slightest knowledge of sociology and criminology will be disposed to deny such a statement. One might as well expect a one-legged man to win the international Marathon as to expect certain physical delinquents to “go right.” Thousands of boys and girls sit in our public schools today who are the unhappy candidates for this delinquency, and we are monotonously striving to get something into their minds, which would largely take care of their own development, if only we had the wisdom to address ourselves to their bodies.

There is indeed not only a physical basis of _being_ good, but, what is not less important, a physical basis of _doing_ good. Many people avoid blame and disgrace who fail utterly in making a positive contribution to the welfare of the community. They do not market their mental goods. Thousands of men remain in mediocrity, to the great loss of society, simply because they have not the requisite physical outfit to force their good ideas, impulses, and visions into the current of the world’s life. For the most part they lack the great play qualities, “enthusiasm, spontaneity, creative ability, and the ability to co-operate.” Whenever we build up a strong human organism we lay the physical foundations of efficiency, and one is inclined to go farther and think with Dr. Fisher, that muscular energy itself is capable of transformation into energy of mind and will. That is to say that play not only helps greatly in building the necessary vehicle, but that it creates a fund upon which the owner may draw for the accomplishment of every task.

There is ground also for the contention that grace of physical development easily passes over into manner and mind. The proper development of the instrument, the right adjustment and co-ordination of the muscular outfit through which the emotions assemble and diffuse themselves, is, when other things are equal, a guaranty of inner beauty and the grace of true gentility. A poor instrument is always vexatious, a good instrument is an abiding joy. The good body helps to make the gracious self. Other things being equal the strong body obeys, but the weak body rules.

One should not overlook the heartiness that is engendered in games, the total engagement of mind and body that insures for the future the ability “to be a whole man to one thing at a time.” Much of the moral confusion of life arises from divided personality, and the miserable application of something less than the entire self to the problem in hand. Do not the great religious leaders of the world agree with the men of practical efficiency in demonstrating and requiring this hearty release of the total self in the proposed line of action? The demand of Jesus, touching love of God and neighbor, or regarding enlistment in His cause, is a demand for prompt action of the total self. Possibly no other single virtue has a more varied field of application than the ability for decisive and whole-souled action, which is constantly cultivated in all physical training, and especially in competitive athletic games.

It should be noted also that the hearty release of energy is, in every good game, required to keep within the rules. This is particularly true in basket-ball, which takes high rank as an indoor game for boys. While the game is intense and fatiguing, anything like a muscular rampage brings certain penalty to the player and loss to his team. So that, while the boy who does not play “snappy” and hard cannot rank high, neither can the boy who plays “rough-house.” Forcefulness under control is the desideratum.

Besides this there is always the development of that good-natured appreciation of every hard task, that refinement of the true sporting spirit, by which all the serious work of life becomes a contest worthy of never-ending interest and buoyant persistency. In the midst of all the sublime responsibilities of his remarkable ministry we hear Phillips Brooks exclaim, “It’s great fun to be a minister.” An epoch-making president of the United States telegraphs his colleague and successor, with all the zest of a boy at play, “We’ve beaten them to a frazzle”; and the greatest of all apostles, triumphing over bonds and imprisonment, calls out to his followers, “I have fought a good fight.” “It is doubtful if a great man ever accomplished his life work without having reached a play interest in it.”

The saving power of organized play, in the prevention and cure of that morbidity which especially besets youth, can hardly be overestimated. This diseased self-consciousness is intimately connected with nervous tensions and reflexes from sex conditions and not infrequently passes over into sex abuse or excess of some sort. So that the diversion of strenuous athletic games, and the consequent use of energy up to a point just below exhaustion, is everywhere recognized as an indispensable moral prophylactic. Solitariness, overwrought nervous states, the intense and suggestive stimuli of city life, call for a large measure of this wholesome treatment for the preservation of the moral integrity of the boy, his proper self-respect, and those ideals of physical development which will surely make all forms of self-abuse or indulgence far less likely.

The normal exhilaration of athletic games, which cannot be described to those without experience, is often what is blindly and injuriously sought by the young cigarette smoker in the realm of nervous excitation without the proper motor accompaniments. Possibly if we had not so restricted our school-yards and overlooked the necessity for a physical trainer and organized play, we would not have schools in which as many as 80 per cent of the boys between ten and seventeen years of age are addicted to cigarettes. In trying to fool Nature in this way the boy pays a heavy penalty in the loss of that very decisiveness, force, and ability in mind and body which properly accompany athletic recreation. The increased circulation and oxidization of the blood is in itself a great tonic and when one reflects that, with a running pace of six miles an hour the inhalation of air increases from four hundred and eighty cubic inches per minute to three thousand three hundred and sixty cubic inches, the tonic effect of the athletic game will be better appreciated. This increased use of oxygen means healthy stimulation, growth of lung capacity, and exaltation of spirit without enervation. “Health comes in through the muscles but flies out through the nerves.”

It was well thought and arranged by the ancients [says Martin Luther] that young people should exercise themselves and have something creditable and useful to do. Therefore I like these two exercises and amusements best, namely, music and chivalrous games or bodily exercises, as fencing, wrestling, running, leaping, and others….. With such bodily exercises one does not fall into carousing, gambling, and hard drinking, and other kinds of lawlessness, as are unfortunately seen now in the towns and at the courts. This evil comes to pass if such honest exercises and chivalrous games are despised and neglected.

[Illustration: WHAT SHALL WE PLAY?]

The feeling of harmony and _bien-etre_ resulting from play is, in itself, a rare form of wealth for the individual and a blessing to all with whom one has to do. Every social contact tends to become wholesome. And who will say that the virtue of cheerfulness is not one of the most delightful and welcome forms of philanthropy? Play, rightly directed, always has this result.

Possibly no social work in America is more sanely constructive than that of the playground movement. In the few years of its existence it has made ample proof of its worth in humane and beneficent results; and our city governments are hastening to acknowledge–what has been too long ignored–the right of every child to play. It is only to be regretted that the play movement has not centered about our public schools for it constitutes a legitimate part of education. The survivors who reach high school and college receive relatively a good deal of attention in physical training and organized play, but the little fellows of the elementary grades who have curvatures, retardation, adenoids, and small defects which cause loss of grade, truancy, and delinquency receive as yet very meager attention.

In dearth of opportunity and in cruel oversight of the normal play-needs of boyhood, there probably has never been anything equal to our modern American city. But the cost of industrial usurpation in restricting the time and area of play is beginning to be realized; and the relation of the play-time and of the playground to health, happiness, morality, and later to industrial efficiency, begins to dawn upon our civic leaders. If “recreation is stronger than vice,” it becomes the duty of religious and educational institutions to contribute directly and indirectly to normal recreative needs.

But what can the minister do? He can help educate the church out of a negative or indifferent attitude toward the absorbing play-interests of childhood and youth. He can publicly endorse and encourage movements to provide for this interest of young life and may often co-operate in the organization and management of such movements. Every church should strive through intelligent representatives to impart religious value and power to such work and should receive through the same channels first-hand information of this form of constructive and preventive philanthropy. He can partly meet the demand through clubs and societies organized in connection with his own church. He can plead for a real and longer childhood in behalf of Christ’s little ones who are often sacrificed through commercial greed, un-Christian business ambition, educational blindness, and ignorance. He can preach a gospel that does not set the body over against the soul, science over against the Bible, and the church over against normal life; but embraces every child of man in an imperial redemption which is environmental and social as well as individual, physical as well as spiritual. In short, he can study and serve his community, not as one who must keep an organization alive at whatever cost, but as one who must inspire and lead others to obey the Master whose only reply to our repeated protestations of love is, “Feed my lambs.”



It is practically impossible to overemphasize the importance of the boy’s vocational choice. Next to his attitude toward his Maker and his subsequent choice of a life partner this decision controls his worth and destiny. For it is not to be supposed that play with all its virtue, its nourish and exercise of nascent powers, and its happy emancipation into broader and richer living can adequately motivate and permanently ennoble the energies of youth. Until some vocational interest dawns, education is received rather than sought and will-power is latent or but intermittently exercised. Play has a great orbit, but every true parent and educator seeks to know the axis of a given life.

For some boys presumably of high-school age and over, this problem becomes real and engrossing, but for the vast majority there is little intelligent choice, no wise counsel, no conscious fronting of the profoundly religious question of how to invest one’s life. The children of ease graduate but slowly, if at all, from the “good-time” ideal, while the children of want are ordinarily without option in the choice of work. But for all who, being permitted and helped, both seek and find then-proper places in the ranks of labor, life becomes constructively social and therefore self-respecting. To be able to do some bit of the world’s work well and to dedicate one’s self to the task is the individual right of every normal youth and the sure pledge of social solvency. Ideally an art interest in work for its own sake should cover the whole field of human labor, and in proportion as each person finds a task suited to his natural ability and is well trained for that task does he lift himself from the grade of a menial or a pauper and enter into conscious and worthy citizenship.

Here then, as in the case of the mating instinct, the vocational quest rightly handled forces the ego by its very inclination and success into the altruism of a social order. For it is the misfits, the vocationally dormant, the defeated, and those who, however successful, have not considered such choice as an ethical concern of religion that make up the anti-social classes of the present time.