Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 438
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 438
 
moved about him in the city. I picked out a Hungarian widow in an East Side tenement, whose brave struggle to keep her little flock together had enlisted my sympathy and strong admiration. She was a cleaner in an office building; not until all the arrangements had been made did it occur to me to ask where. Then it turned out that she was scrubbing floors in the missionary society’s house, right at my friend’s door. They had passed one another every day, each in need of the other, and each as far from the other as if oceans separated them instead of a doorstep four inches wide.
  Looking back over the years that lie behind with their work, and forward to those that are coming, I see only cause for hope. As I write these last lines in a far-distant land, in the city of my birth, the children are playing under my window, and calling to one another with glad cries in my sweet mother-tongue, even as we did in the long ago. Life and the world are before them, bright with the promise of morning. So to me seem the skies at home. Not lightly do I say it, for I have known the toil of rough-hewing it on the pioneer line that turns men’s hair gray; but I have seen also the reward of the toil. New York is the youngest of the world’s great cities, barely yet out of knickerbockers. It may be that our century will yet see it as the greatest of them all.

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