The Few by Richard King

Story type: Essay

But just a few people seem to be enabled to see beneath the surface of things. Around them they seem to shed an extraordinary kind of understanding sympathy. They are not entirely the “people in trouble” who appeal to them; rather they seem able to perceive the misery of a “state of life”–something which obtains no sympathy because people either condemn it or fail to realise the steps which led up to it–in the long, long ago. To them, everybody unfortunate–whether it be by their own fault or by the economic, moral, or social laws of the country–arouses their sympathy. It would seem as if Nature had given them the gift of intuition into another’s sorrow–especially when that sorrow is not apparent to the outside world. You will find these people working, for the most part, among the poor and needy, in the slums of big cities, in the midst of men and women whose life is one long, hard struggle to keep both ends meeting until death releases them from the treadmill which is their life. They do not advertise themselves nor their philanthropy. One often never hears of them at all–until they are dead. They do not seek to hide their light under a bushel, because to them all self-advertisement is indecent. They do not realise that what they do is “light” at all. But the world does not realise all that it owes to these unknown men and women, whose sympathies are so wide, so all-absorbing, that they can give up their lives to minister to the sorrows and hardships of others–and, in succouring them, find their only reward. I have known one or two of these people in my life, and they have given me a clearer insight into the nobility inherent in human nature than all the saints whose virtues were ever chronicled, than all the wealthy philanthropists whose gifts and generosity were ever overpraised.

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