Despite my experience with Tim Grogan, I diagnosed the condition of these men as being entirely due to strong drink. I went back over the ground and investigated with a little more care the causes that led them to drink, and this was the more fruitful of the two investigations. I wondered why men would not even stick at a job when I got them work. A careful investigation led me to the belief that, when a man gets out of a job once, he loses just a little of the routine, the continuity, the habit of work, and it is just a little harder to apply himself when he begins again. If a man loses a job two or three times in a year, it is just as many times harder to go on with a regular job when it comes. Lack of regular employment is the cause not only of the physical disintegration, but of the moral disintegration also; so, these men who had been out of employment so often, actually could not stick at a job when they got it. They were disorganized. A few of them had the stamina to overcome this disorganization. I found the same to be true in morals. When a man made his first break, it was easier to make the second, and it was as easy for him to lose a good habit as to acquire a bad one.
The same thing holds good in what we call charity. A terrific soul-struggle goes on in every man and woman before the hand is put out for the first time. Self-respect is a tremendous asset, and people hold on to it as to their very souls; but when a hand is held out once and the community puts alms therein, the fabric of self-respect begins to totter, and the whole process of disintegration begins.
A BUNK-HOUSE AND SOME BUNK-HOUSE MEN
I made my headquarters, while a lodging-house missionary, in the Mulberry Street bunk-house. It was only a block from Chatham Square, and central. The first thing I did was to clean it. I proceeded with soap and water to scrub it out, dressed in a pair of overalls. While performing this operation, a tall gaunt figure lurched into the room with his hands in his pockets—a slit for a mouth, shaggy eyebrows, rather small eyes. He looked at me for a moment as if in astonishment, and then he said:
“Hello, bub, what’s de game?”
“I’m a missionary,” I answered.
“Ye are, eh?”
“Yes. When I finish cleaning the floor, I am going to attempt to clean up some other things around here.”
“Me too, hey?”
“Yes; don’t you think you need it?”
He laughed a hoarse, gutteral laugh, and said:
“Don’t get bughouse, boss. Ye’d wind up just where ye begun—on the floor.”