5. Children, like adults, can be interested in other people, in rules of conduct, in social conditions, in living and working relations more easily than in their own bodies. The normal, healthy child thinks very little of himself apart from the other boys and girls, the games, the studies, the animals, the nature wonders, the hardships that come to him from the outside. So true is this that one of the best means of mitigating or curing many ailments is to divert the child's attention from himself to things outside of himself that he can look at, hear, enjoy. The power to concentrate attention upon oneself is a sign either of a diseased body, a diseased mind, or a highly trained mind. To study others and to recognize the similarity between others and oneself is as natural as the body itself. Teachers are consulting this line of easiest access to children's attention when they honor children according to cleanliness of hands, of teeth, of shoes. Human interest attaches to what parks or excursions are doing for sickly children, how welfare work is improving factory employees, how smallpox is conquered by vaccination, how insurance companies refuse to take risks upon the lives of men or women addicted to the excessive use of alcohol or tobacco.
Other people's interests—tenement conditions, factory rules—can be described in figures and actions that appeal to the imagination and impress upon the mind pictures that are repeatedly reawakened by experience and observation on the playground, at home, on the way to school or to work. "Once upon a time—" will always arrest attention more quickly than "The human frame consists—." What others think of me helps me to obey law—statutory, moral, or hygienic—more than what I know of law itself. How social instincts dominate may be illustrated by an experience in advertising a public bath near a thoroughfare traveled daily by thousands of working girls. I prepared a card to be distributed among these girls that began: "A cool, refreshing bath, etc." This card was criticised by one who knows the ways of girls and women, as follows: "Of course you get no success when you have a man stand on the street corner and pass out cards telling girls to get clean. Every girl that is worth while is affronted by the insinuation." Acting upon this expert advice, we then got out a neatly printed card reading as follows: "For a clear complexion, sprightly step, and bounding vitality, visit the Center Market Baths, open from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. daily." The board of managers shook their sage masculine heads and reluctantly gave permission to issue these appeals. Woman's judgment was vindicated, however, and the advantage was proved of urging health for "society's" sake rather than for health's sake, when the patronage of the bath jumped at once to considerable proportions.
6. Other people's habits of health influence our well-being quite as much, if not more, than our own. Because we are social beings, ability to get along with our families, our friends, our employers, is—at least so it seems to most of us—quite as important as individual health. For too many of us, living hygienically is absolutely impossible without inconveniencing and bothering the majority of persons with whom we live. I remember a girl in college,—a fresh-air fiend,—who every morning, no matter how cold, threw the windows wide open. Then, with forty others, I thought this girl a nuisance as well as a menace to health, but now, twenty years afterwards, I find myself wanting to do the same thing. Professor Patten, the economist, whom I shall quote many times because he is particularly interested in the purpose of this book, was recently dining at my house and illustrated from his own health the importance of teaching hygiene so as to affect social as well as personal standards. "To be true to my own health needs, I ought to have declined nearly everything that has been offered me for dinner, but in the long run, if I am going to visit, my eating what is placed before me is better for society than making those who entertain me feel uncomfortable."
Most of us know what uphill work it is to live hygienically in an unhygienic environment. I remember how hard it was to eat happily when sitting beside a college professor who took brown pills before each meal, yellow pills between each course, and a dose of black medicine after the meal was over. Mariano, an Italian lad cured of bone tuberculosis by out-of-door salt air at Sea Breeze, returned to his tenement home an ardent apostle of fresh air day and night, winter and summer. His family allowed him to open the window before going to bed, but closed it as soon as he was asleep. Lawrence Veiller, our greatest expert on tenement conditions, says: "To bathe in a tenement where a family of six occupy three rooms often involves the sacrifice of privacy and decency, which are quite as important to social betterment as cleanliness."
To live unhygienically where others live hygienically is quite as difficult. Witness the speedy improvement of dissipated men when boarding with country friends who eat rationally and retire early. It must have been knowledge of this fact that prompted the tramways of Belfast to post conspicuous notices: "Spitting is a vile and filthy habit, and those who practice it subject themselves to the disgust and loathing of their fellow-passengers." It is almost impossible to have indigestion, blues, and headache when one is camping, particularly where action and enjoyment fill the day. Our practical question is, therefore, not "What shall I eat, how many hours shall I sleep, what shall I wear," but "How can I manage to get into an environment among living and working conditions where the people I live with and want to please, those who influence me and are influenced by me, make healthy living easy and natural?"
7. Because the problems of health have to do principally with environment,—home, street, school, business,—it is worth while trying to relate hygiene instruction to industry and government, to preach health from the standpoint of industrial and national efficiency rather than of individual well-being. Since healthful living requires the cooperation of all persons in a household, in a group, or in a community, we must find some working programme that will make it easy for all the members of the group to observe health standards. A city government that spends taxes inefficiently can produce more sickness, wretchedness, incapacity in one year than pamphlets on health can offset in a generation. Failure to enforce health laws is a more serious menace to health and morals than drunkenness or tobacco cancer. Unclean streets, unclean dairies, unclean, overcrowded tenements can do more harm than alcohol and tobacco because they can breed an appetite that craves stimulants and drugs. Others have taught how the body acts, what we ought to eat, how we should live. We are concerned here not with repeating the laws of health, but with a consideration of the mechanism that will make it possible for us so to work together that we can observe those laws.