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Howard Philips
Working With Boys
Ch. 1 "Working With Boys"

Any of us who would influence another life, young or old, for good, must take that other life as it is, become a part of it, skillfully fill up the blanks in it, and set new ideals in full view. This is wonderfully true in any work among boys. We must work with the boys, not merely for them. It is the simple and natural comingling of two lives, one rich in experience which the other does not possess, the other, open and impressionable, quick to receive and quick to reject, outreaching and absorbing what is within the touch of its own needs, bad or good.

It is the work of a helper of boys to meet right desires with wholesome fulfillment, and wrong desires with vigorous, yet considerate denial. The boy-life, all new and trustful, turns easily to that which is just alongside. To help a boy means, first of all, to get alongside of him, so that he will know you are not poised unreachably above him with all your fine gifts. He wants you. Thus it is that working with boys is far more to them than merely working for them can ever be.

There is a sense in which it is true that a boy never cares about your help at all unless he knows you are with him. His own ideas are precious to him. His dreams are very real. His inward struggles are violent, and rend him just as your spiritual contests stir the soul-storms in you. He has his own shortcomings. They are not just like yours, indeed, but they are his, and they bother him sorely.

He wants to have you see how all this can be. When he has a theory about a flying-machine, he rightly asks at least a courteous hearing. Of course, he may not know what a “courteous hearing” is, but he does know the practical difference between a superior smile of incredulity, and a kindly nod of approval of his attempt to do something thoughtfully.

When he is ten years old he may fully intend to be a doctor at twenty-five. He knows you are not with him when you tell him that he is too young to think about such things. He does think about just such things. It would help him if you would only recognize his right to think ahead.

Very likely the smoking of a cigarette is not any temptation to you. It has a curious, subtle charm to him until he tries it, and sometimes afterwards. It is a considerable and attractive bit of wickedness to many a little fellow to take one puff at the thing which the big boys smoke so grandly. He turns away from you with a dull, discouraged feeling when, after he has said to you, “My, but wouldn’t I like a pull at that!” you answer, “Ho! that’s nothing. Why that’s only a miserable, nasty cigarette! No decent boy smokes cigarettes.” He knows then you are not with him. There are boys who seem very superior among his older brothers’ acquaintances who smoke cigarettes. He had rather have you say, “Yes, sir, it isn’t easy to hold off. But don’t you ever give in. Fight it out!” And haven’t we all seen many a plucky fight against “only a cigarette”?

When he flunks dreadfully in an examination it lets him down a little deeper to hear you say, “Well, well, I don’t understand it. Why, Tom got through, didn’t he? You could if he could.” Now the poor fellow may have been foolish and careless in his preparation; heedless of the essential points, stupid in the depressing examination hall; all wrong indeed-excepting that he wouldn’t steal another’s thought to get through as Tom did, or tell you about Tom’s method. He wants a look of sympathy, a hearty “Go at it again, my boy. Better next time. And begin early!”

A young lawyer took charge of a class of boys in a city Sunday school. He was a college graduate, an honor man in his class, and was entering into a legal practice that very soon imposed no small burden upon his time and energy. The boys in his class were every one from workingmen’s families, and nearly all were themselves apprenticed mechanics, or at work in neighboring mills.

How easily the lawyer might have made the fatal mistake of holding merely to his own natural tastes in his dealings with the boys! But he was wise and observant, seeing their need and his own opportunity. When he found himself not quite in touch with the boys, he began to invite them one by one to walk with him after school on Sunday. He would end the walk at the boy’s home, as a rule, but not the opportunity. For within the home circle of each of these hard working boys he soon was known and loved through the Sunday afternoon visit. Nor was this all. He secured positions for many of his boys when they got out of work, he freely advised the older ones of their families on legal matters, and when all this had been done he entered practically into the work-a-day life of his class by joining an order of mechanics in which many of his boys were members.

No class of boys in that Sunday school attained so large an average attendance and none more strikingly illustrated the principle of “working with.”

“Father,” said a little fellow, “come and let’s be carpenter!” And he planted himself squarely on the floor with hammer poised over a board furnished for his workshop.

“Oh, you go and be carpenter!” said his father, comfortably seated in an easy chair.

The hammer stopped in its stroke. The bright eyes gazed in entreaty at the big man who ought to have understood. “Father,” said the boy, “please come and sit on the floor beside me and you take that stick for a hammer, and drive that nail. I don’t want to be carpenter alone. I want you to sit here with me.” And the father did.

Chapter 1: Working With Boys
Chapter 2: Winning Boys To Christ
Chapter 3: Teaching Boys to Win Other Boys to Christ