Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 364
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 364
 
at frequent intervals, and the boys need not be told what a bad year means. No other kind ever occurs there. They learned the lesson on wheat in no time, after that. Oftener it was a gentler note that piped timidly in the strange place. A barrel of wild roses came one day, instead of the expected “specimens,” and these were given to the children. They took them greedily. “I wondered,” said the teacher, “if it was more love of the flower, or of getting something for nothing, no matter what.” But even if it were largely the latter, there was still the rose. Nothing like it had come that way before, and without a doubt it taught its own lesson. The Italian child might have jumped for it more eagerly, but its beauty was not wasted in Jew-town, either. The baby kissed it, and it lay upon more than one wan cheek, and whispered, who knows what thought of hope and courage that were nearly gone. Even in Hester Street the wild rose from the hedge was not wasted.
  The result of it all was wholesome and good, because it was common sense. The way to fight the slum in the children’s lives is with sunlight and flowers and play, which their child hearts crave, if their eyes have never seen them. The teachers reported that the boys were easier to manage, more quite, and played more fairly than before. The police reports showed that fewer were arrested or

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