A Lesson on How to ‘Approach the Poor’ – 1848

A young man, of eighteen or twenty, a student in a university, took a walk one day with a professor, who was commonly called the student’s friend, such was his kindness to the young men whose office it was to instruct.

While they were now walking together, and the professor was seeking to lead the conversation to grave subjects, they saw a pair of old shoes lying in their path, which they supposed to belong to a poor man who was at work in a field close by, and who had nearly finished his day’s work.

The young student turned to the professor, saying, “let us play the man a trick; we will hide his shoes, and conceal ourselves behind those bushes and watch to see his perplexity when he cannot find them.”

“My dear friend,” answered the professor, “we must never amuse ourselves at the expense of the poor. But you are rich, and you may give yourself a much greater pleasure by means of this poor man. Put a dollar into each shoe, and then we will hide ourselves.”

The student did so, and then placed himself, with the professor behind the bushes close by, through which, they could easily watch the laborer, and see whatever wonder or joy he might express.

The poor man soon finished his work, and came across the field to the path, where he had left his coat and shoes. While he put on his coat he slipped one foot into one of his shoes; but feeling something hard, he stooped down and found the dollar.

Astonishment and wonder were seen upon his countenance; he gazed upon the dollar, turned it round and looked at it again; then he looked round him on all sides, but could see no one. Now he put the money in his pocket, and proceeded to put on the other shoe; but how great was his astonishment when he found the other dollar!

His feelings overcame him; he fell upon his knees, looked up to heaven, and uttered aloud a fervent thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife, sick and helpless, and his children without bread, whom this timely bounty from some unknown hand, would save from perishing.

The young man stood there deeply affected, and tears filled his eyes.

“Now,” said the professor, “are you not much better pleased, than if you had played your intended trick?”

“O, dearest sir,” answered the youth,” you have taught me a lesson now that I will never forget. I feel now the truth of the words, which I never before understood, “it’s better to give than to receive.”

We should never approach the poor but with the wish to do them good.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: The North Star
Date: March 24, 1848
Title: A Pleasant Surprise
Location: Rochester, New York

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