The depth of winter found Chicago presenting, as every great city of the world presents to the eyes of Christendom the marked contrast between riches and poverty, between culture, refinement, luxury, ease, and ignorance, depravity, destitution and the bitter struggle for bread. It was a hard winter but a gay winter. Never had there been such a succession of parties, receptions, balls, dinners, banquets, fetes, gayeties. Never had the opera and the theatre been so crowded with fashionable audiences. Never had there been such a lavish display of jewels and fine dresses and equipages. And on the other hand, never had the deep want and suffering been so cruel, so sharp, so murderous. Never had the winds blown so chilling over the lake and through the thin shells of tenements in the neighborhood of the Settlement. Never had the pressure for food and fuel and clothes been so urgently thrust up against the people of the city in their most importunate and ghastly form. Night after night the Bishop and Dr. Bruce with their helpers went out and helped save men and women and children from the torture of physical privation. Vast quantities of food and clothing and large sums of money were donated by the churches, the charitable societies, the civic authorities and the benevolent associations. But the personal touch of the Christian disciple was very hard to secure for personal work. Where was the discipleship that was obeying the Master’s command to go itself to the suffering and give itself with its gift in order to make the gift of value in time to come? The Bishop found his heart sing within him as he faced this fact more than any other. Men would give money who would not think of giving themselves. And the money they gave did not represent any real sacrifice because they did not miss it. They gave what was the easiest to give, what hurt them the least. Where did the sacrifice come in? Was this following Jesus? Was this going with Him all the way? He had been to members of his own aristocratic, splendidly wealthy congregations, and was appalled to find how few men and women of that luxurious class in the churches would really suffer any genuine inconvenience for the sake of suffering humanity. Is charity the giving of worn-out garments? Is it a ten-dollar bill given to a paid visitor or secretary of some benevolent organization in the church? Shall the man never go and give his gift himself? Shall the woman never deny herself her reception or her party or her musicale, and go and actually touch, herself, the foul, sinful sore of diseased humanity as it festers in the great metropolis? Shall charity be conveniently and easily done through some organization? Is it possible to organize the affections so that love shall work disagreeable things by proxy?
All this the Bishop asked as he plunged deeper into the sin and sorrow of that bitter winter. He was bearing his cross with joy. But he burned and fought within over the shifting of personal love by the many upon the hearts of the few. And still, silently, powerfully, resistlessly, the Holy Spirit was moving through the churches, even the aristocratic, wealthy, ease-loving members who shunned the terrors of the social problem as they would shun a contagious disease.