Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 439
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 439

The task that is set it, the problem it has to solve and which it may not shirk, is the problem of civilization, of human progress, of a people’s fitness for self-government, that is on trial among us. We shall solve it by the world-old formula of human sympathy, of humane touch. Somewhere in these pages I have told of the woman in Chicago who accounted herself the happiest woman alive because she had at last obtained a playground for her poor neighbors’ children. “I have lived here for years,” she said to me, “and struggled with principalities and powers, and have made up my mind that the most and the best I can do is to live right here with my people and smile with them,—keep smiling; weep when I must, but smile as long as I possibly can.” And the tears shone in her gentle old eyes as she said it. When we have learned to smile and weep with the poor, we shall have mastered our problem. Then the slum will have lost its grip and the boss his job.
  Until then, while they are in possession, our business is to hold taut and take in slack right along, never letting go for a moment.
  And now, having shown you the dark side of the city, which, after all, I love, with its great memories, its high courage, and its bright skies, as I love the little Danish town where my cradle stood, let me,



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