Amongst societies for helping children none is more commendable than the Ministering Children's League, for its guiding principle is to teach children to help other children less favourably placed in life.
It was founded by the Countess of Meath, in her London house, 83, Lancaster Gate, February 10, 1885.
It owed its inception to the deep impression made upon Lady Meath, when a child, by M. L. Charles-worth's delightful story, "Ministering Children." The idea of the book haunted her, and she determined to form a society under that name.
Lady Meath was much encouraged in the project by Dr. Ridgway, the Bishop of Chichester, then Vicar of Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, who presided over the first meeting of the society.
Neither the foundress nor the friends who gathered in her drawing-room on that winter s afternoon, twenty-six years ago, could have ventured to hope that a small children's league, thus started in a London parish, would spread until it encircled the globe. It travelled quickly through the parishes of England, was welcomed in Scotland and Ireland, and crossed the Atlantic and rooted itself in the United States and in Canada. It has flourishing branches in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Tasmania, and has penetrated to India, China, and Japan. It is an international organisation, and has no distinction of race, colour, or creed.
It has now (1911) more than five hundred branches, and has founded no less than twenty homes and institutions for the benefit of the poor and helpless, especially children. The sick, the poor, the blind, the lame, prisoners, the epileptic, the hungry and the unclothed, all are cared for by some branch of the League. The objects are:
The Countess of Meath, foundress of the Ministering Children's League, the object of which is to teach children to help others
Photo, A. Sundeor
2. To encourage children to take an active interest in the needs of their own parish or district.
3. To create in the minds of children an earnest desire to help all who are in need.
The beautiful motto of the Ministering Children's League is:
" No day without a deed to crown it." There is but one rule: "To try to do at least one kind deed every day."
The spirit in which that kind deed is done is a matter which every endeavour is made to bring home to the minds of the children. It would, indeed, be a sad misnomer to call a priggish little boaster " a ministering child." Ministering children are those who try to serve others. A child is a " ministering child," for instance, when he helps a blind person to cross the road, when he gives up a part of his dinner to some poor starving child, when he runs off cheerfully on" an errand for his tired father or mother, sends a cherished toy to a children's hospital, or contributes from his pocket-money to some of the benevolent schemes promoted by the League. The child who boasts of such an action naturally nullifies the value of the good deed.
Children of all ages are eligible as members, for the little ones cannot begin too early to learn the law of unselfish love. No subscription is asked, the membership being founded on a fellowship of love.
In its infancy the League included only the children of the well to do, with a view to enlisting their sympathy with the poor, but children from all ranks of life are now members, and, alas! it seems in our crowded cities that scarcely any child is so poor that it cannot find one still more destitute or distressed whom it can help.
Parents and others who watch over the welfare of children are invited to join the League as associates, or guides to the little members in any labour of love which they may undertake. They are earnestly requested to take their full share in training those under their care to be true ministering children. Associates are requested to give an annual subscription of two shillings towards central, and one shilling towards branch expenses.
Queen Mary, who, indeed, sets a noble example of motherhood to the nation in the training of her children in deeds of love and kindness, is the Patroness of the Ministering Children's League. Its President is the Bishop of London, who takes an active interest in its doings.
In starting the organisation, Lady Meath had a deep underlying motive to promote the brotherhood of man. Lord and Lady Meath are well known for the active interest which they take in social philanthropy, and it seemed to them that by starting with training the young in habits of kindness and sympathy an important foundation would be laid for future generations, which would have the effect of creating sympathy between man and man. The conflicts between capital and labour, which shake the foundations of commercial security, would not have such disastrous effects if master and man had been trained from childhood to consider the rights of others. The best preventive of anarchism and class warfare, Lady Meath feels, is the inculcation of the divine precept " do unto others as ye would that men should do unto you."
The ministering children first are taught to carry out this rule in their own homes by being obedient to parents, guardians, and teachers, kind and considerate to servants, and loving in their relations with their brothers, sisters, and schoolfellows. When this lesson has been learned, the children are encouraged to extend their sympathies beyond the home circle and to work for the poor and distressed. Working parties are organised in the various centres, and the handiwork of the children is distributed amongst hospitals and children's homes, or sold at local sales for the benefit of the destitute. A large sale is held most years at" Lancaster Gate. The well made, and even beautiful, articles which are displayed are a striking proof that in trying to help others the ministering children are themselves benefited. Many boys and girls have discovered unknown talents in trying to make things for the sale.