The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Ministering Children's League.

by the Countess of Meath.
Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 249

Six years ago an undertaking was commenced, destined to have most happy results. It had been felt that, amongst people in general, only a certain few were willing to engage in charitable work, whilst there were numbers of individuals with plenty of time and money at their disposal who stood aloof and did little or nothing towards the all-important task of endeavouring to diminish evil and suffering in the world. Why are there so many useless persons to be found? why such numbers who are reluctant to stir a finger to aid a fellow-creature? The true answer to this question doubtless is, because they are not inspired by God's best gift of love. But without going so far down to the root of the evil, may not a good deal of the self-seeking which there is in the world be traced to the fact that only a few young people are trained during the early and most impressionable time of youth to regard doing good to others not so much as a duty as a positive pleasure? Self-denial is taught them on Sundays in church when they hear the teaching of Holy Writ, but unless it sinks deeply into their hearts, and parents and teachers will lay much stress upon it, the lesson is heard and then speedily forgotten. The object of our education ought to be to train up a child to become a devoted Christian, not one who merely reads his Bible occasionally and attends a certain number of church services, but who brings his Christianity into daily life, trying humbly to follow in the footsteps of Him who went about doing good. Such a man can scarcely fail to be useful to hundreds of his fellow-creatures; he is happy himself and he makes others so. On the other hand, there are numbers of persons who have been given, as we are assured, the best of education, and yet they are dissatisfied men and women, and very useless members of society. This is owing in a great measure to the way in which they were brought up. If a boy or girl is destined by parents to become a great scholar, musician, or painter, they must insist upon years of patient study commenced in early youth. It ought to be an object of the highest ambition for those who love their children, to see them growing up to be men and women whose lives will be richly blessed to others, and yet how little comparatively is done to train young people to find true and lasting happiness in ministering to the needs of others! It is because the lesson is too often wholly neglected or laid far too little stress upon that the Society, about which I have been asked to write, has been formed. The young members may join its ranks as soon as they can understand the meaning of the rule, "Try to do at least one kind deed every day;" and of a prayer now used by young people scattered far and wide in the world; it runs thus: "Loving Father, make me like the Holy Child Jesus, a ministering child, loving, kind, and useful to others; make me to feel for the poor and suffering, and may I be willing to do what I can to help all who need, for Jesus' sake."

It will be seen that this society is a union for work and prayer amongst the young of the simplest possible description. That a blessing has rested upon the undertakings of the League can scarcely be doubted. There are tokens of outward prosperity: thirty-five thousand have joined its ranks, who are scattered over the four quarters of the world, the children having joined as members, their elders as associates, and on the earnestness of parents much depends as guides to the little ones. There are four buildings, which can bear testimony to the fact that the League is doing useful work in the world: two of these are in our own land, for a home for destitute boys, and one for girls, have been erected at Ottershaw, near Chertsey. Anyone who will inspect these institutions and see the rosy-cheeked little ones, rescued, some of them, from very sad surroundings, will be disposed to think that, at any rate, the society has been of service to these poor children. A little chapel, thousands of miles distant, in Dakota, N.S., bears witness to the good done by the association. Here, Sunday after Sunday, the Red Indians have been enabled to worship God in a church built for them by the members of a New York branch of the "Ministering Children's League." In Canada there is a little hospital for children, which also owes its origin to this beneficent society; nor is that all, for it is rumoured that one of the English branches proposes to start a coffee-house, and in Australia there has been a proposal to see if a convalescent home could not be established. These are but outward signs of the good which the League has been doing. Its influence upon the characters of the little workers cannot be recorded in any report, even if it were written by the cleverest of pens, but testimony as to the usefulness of the society in promoting the spirit of unselfishness, has been borne by parents and teachers. "I love your League, it has been a real help to me," wrote, one day, a girl just blooming into womanhood. She only gave expression to a thought which, I trust, will be that of thousands of young folks when years of discretion are reached. How many of us older people might have been helped to lead far more useful lives, if only in the spring-time of our youth we had been taught to do our duty to others, a lesson best learnt in early childhood, but often acquired only after much suffering has been endured. When other pleasures fade, then perhaps we are almost driven to seek for satisfaction in that which gives us more lasting enjoyment. So ought it not to be. "Il faut donner les meilleures années de sa vie au bon Dieu," said a devoted French sister, whose whole life was given up to the service of the poor. How true, we ought to give our lives in their brightness and in their fulness, and not just the dregs of an existence which no longer affords us satisfaction. The "Ministering Children's League" seeks to lead the young in the days when impressions are easily formed and not easily obliterated, to teach the happiness of a self-sacrificing life; nor is it too much to expect that by teaching them to minister here on earth, we are fitting them for higher service hereafter in heaven.

* Papers about the Ministering Children's League can be obtained on application to the Secretary, 83, Lancaster Gate, London.

Typed by Pamela Hicks, Mar 2013