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A Word for the Poor in The Lily

This appeal for help for the poor, penned by Helen Bruce, appeared in The Lily in the March 1855 issue.

A Word for the Poor

Winter is here—a winter in the midst of fearfully hard times, and we are surrounded with the starving poor. Why are our cities thronged with helpless paupers, when there are thousands of acres of land overflowing with nature’s bounty, waiting for them to come and take possession? If all this waste population could only be turned out to thrive and fatten, to grow light-hearted and joyous upon those rich unoccupied lands, what a blessed thing it would be. But they are not there—they are here, and they crowd, steaming and half-smothering into cellars and garrets, and live in destitution and distress.

Hundreds who are willing to work cannot get work, and they must beg, steal or starve. One poor widow in Brooklyn, two weeks before Christmas, went for three days without a single meal for herself and her five children! She had not been used to beg, but actual starvation drove her to it at last. This is but one case out of thousands.

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Shall these poor creatures suffer thus in the midst of plenty? God forbid—forbid it ye men of broad lands, high mansions, and heavy purses, or the time will come when the wealth you are hoarding up, or wasting on your pride, will burn like hot and cankerous brass into your souls.

Rich lady please go up stairs, and look in all your closets and drawers; go up to the attic, too; open all the closets, and see how much you can find to give away. Take an inventory of the articles lying idle for moth and rust to consume, of no manner of use to anybody. What are you keeping them for? Perhaps you have some vague notion that you are to still hold on to them because you may want them sometime or another; but would it not be better to use them to cover and protect the shivering limbs of childhood or of old age? You find it cold work searching into attics and closets, and pulling over their contents, but how would you feel if there was no fire by which you had a right to sit down and warm your chilled frame, when your work is done?

Ah, lady, mistress of a well stocked home, beloved wife and mother: does it not give you pain to know that there are, at this moment, women picking rags in the streets, who were once dear, cherished inmates of a home as happy as your own? Lady, remember not one of us can tell the fate the years to come have in store for us. Let us be kind to the poor while we may, ever bearing it in mind that “he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.”

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