The Golden Rule Exemplified

Updated: Sep 8, 2018


Early one morning while it was yet dark, a poor man came to my door and informed me that he had an infant child very sick, which he was afraid would die. He desired me to go to his home, and, if possible, prescribe some medicine to relieve it. “For," said he, "I want to save its life if possible.” As he spoke thus the tears ran down his face. He then added “I am a poor man; but, doctor, I will pay you in work as much as you ask if you will go.”


I said: “Yes, I will go with you as soon as I take a little refreshment."

"Oh, sir," said he, “I was going to try to get a bushel of corn, and get it ground to carry home, and I am afraid the child will die before I get there. I wish you would not wait for me;” and then added: “We want to save the child’s life if we can.”


It being some miles to his house, I did not arrive there until the sun was two hours high in the morning, when I found the mother holding her sick child, and six or seven little boys and girls around her, with clean hands and faces, looking as their mother did, lean and poor.


On examining the sick child, I discovered that it was starving to death I said to the mother "You don’t give milk enough for this child.”

She said: “ I suppose I don’t."

"Well," said I, "you must feed it with milk."

She answered: “I would, sir, but I can’t get any to feed it with.”


I then said: “It will be well then for you to make a little water gruel, and feed your child."

To this she replied; "I was thinking I would if my husband brings home some Indian meal. He has gone to try to get some, and I am in hopes he will make out."


She said this with a sad countenance. I asked her with surprise: “Why, madam, have you not got anything to eat?

She strove to suppress a tear, and answered sorrowfully, "No, sir we have had but little these some days.


I said: "What are your neighbors, that you should suffer among them?"

She said; "I suppose they are good people; but we are strangers in this place, and don’t wish to trouble any of them, if we can get along without."


Wishing to give the child a little manna, I asked for a spoon. The little girl went to the table drawer to get one, and her mother said to her "Get the longest handled spoon." As she opened the drawer, I saw only two spoons, and both with handles broken off, but one handle was a little longer than the other. I thought to myself, this is a very poor family, but I will do the best I can to relieve them.


While I was preparing the medicine for the sick child, I heard the oldest boy (who was about fourteen), say: “You shall have the biggest piece now, because I had the biggest piece before.” I turned around to see who it was that manifested such a principle of justice, and saw four or five children sitting in the corner, where the oldest was dividing a roasted potato among them.


And he said to one: “You shall have the biggest piece now,” etc.

But the other said “Why, brother, you are the oldest, and you ought to have the biggest piece.”

"No,” said the other, “I had the biggest piece."


I turned to the mother, and said “ Madam, you have potatoes to eat, I suppose?"

She replied: “We have had, but that is the last one we have left; and the children have now roasted that for their breakfast.”


On hearing this, I hastened home, and informed my wife that I had taken the wrong medicine with me to the sick family. I then prescribed a gallon of milk, two loaves of bread, some butter, meat and potatoes, and sent my boy with these; and had the pleasure to hear in a few days that they were all well


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