THE TASK OF THE MEN OF
THE Y. M. C. A.
THERE is a great work being done by the men of the Y. M. C. A. these days. As you think of what these men are doing there comes to your mind the parable of the good Samaritan.
In that picture portrayed by the Great Master there was a man in trouble, and a certain priest passed near enough to see him and then went by on the other side. Then there followed the Levite, and he comes near enough to see what happened, and he too passes by on the other side. Then comes the man of whom nothing practically is expected; the man who, if he passed by on the other side, would have given the reporters in the Jerusalem dailies no possibilities for head-lines. But he disappoints those who might have expected him to exhibit the attitude of inconsiderateness, for he stops and goes over to see what the trouble is, and then he uses the means appropriate to the end desired. He doesnít waste his oil and wine by pouring it in and then going on his way, but he justifies the initial expenditure of time and resources by lifting the wounded man on his own beast and taking him to the inn, then he makes his subscription by paying in advance all that is demanded. He meets the immediate obligation and mortgages the future by saying that whatever else is expended in the care of this man shall be paid when he came back.
At this present moment you have a highway on which the world must move. On that highway is one who has been met and foully dealt with, and you have the conception of the ministering spirit come to offer to that troubled and wounded traveler the best he has. We have been thinking very much of that traveler, not of the long ago, but of our own day. He represents so many aspects of life. Wounded and half dead, he represents a type of life in this day of ours in which intellect and faith are stricken and wounded; in which a great soul, with its eagerness, with its receptiveness, with its possibilities, has been not only staggered, but prostrated on the way and is not able to rise.
And the men of the Y. M. C. A. believe tremendously in the obligation which is upon us at this moment of all moments to interpret the unseen world; to help this staggered and prostrated man to rise again, and go on his way again gaining strength at each step of the way. To us this traveler, wounded and prostrate, fairly represents the physical life of the twentieth century that has been so foully dealt with in our day. This traveler on the way represents nations with their multitudes in dire distress; represents the physical anguish that has been occasioned in our day and generation by the atrocities of a national robber and murderer on the worldís highway.
We must think of the Y. M. C. A. as functioning not only in intellectual and spiritual matters, as it must do for the encouragement and restoration of faith, but we must think of it also as ministering to the physical suffering and need of the world to-day. It is by such service in the hospitals, in the camps and trenches, in the ambulances, in the rehabilitation of towns that the Y. M. C. A. is bringing light and cheer to multitudes who have been physically maimed and torn.
Comparing the great conflict over there with this parable of our Master, it would seem that the men of the Y. M. C. A. are over there to minister to the good Samaritan of our day as represented in our great army, the army that is ready to take up the cause of suffering humanity and vanquish the robber and despoiler on the great highway of the world, thus making the highway safe for those who shall come after us. That is precisely what I understand to be the function of the men of the Y. M. C. A. in going over to Franceóto stand by the good Samaritan.
The men of the Y. M. C. A. are not going over the seas to fight the battles of America as their representatives in khaki are doing, and as our Allies are doing, but they are going to stand beside this good Samaritan as he assumes and undertakes a difficult task under new conditions; they are going to help him in every way possible so that he may accomplish that task which to him is as holy a task as the good Samaritans in any age of the worldís history have ever undertaken.
It was during a service in a Y. M. C. A. hut that we heard for the first time the song
"Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,It sounds a bit pathetic to hear our boys singing over there, but they werenít singing with any throb in their throats. They were singing with just the sort of fine spirit you would like to see in the boys of America.
How many men here are really good at packing things up? Most men when it comes to packing, are quite ready to let their wives and sisters do it, and if they are compelled to do the packing up themselves, they wonder if it would not be a good thing to have four or five hands, especially if there are many things to get into that suitcase or trunk. For just when you think you have everything squeezed in something bulges out. Did you ever observe anything like it? But if you have somebodyís hand to help you, you can release yourself and sit on the old kit bag, or suitcase, or trunk. When it comes to packing up your troubles in your old kit bag, that is a thing that most of us havenít undertaken. To pack up your troubles! Perhaps you think you can pack one or two, but when it comes to packing them all in, I donít believe that any of us here would succeed in getting them in the old kit bag, unless standing very near was that White Comrade of whom the inhabitants of France so constantly speak. And we need that Divine Helper if we are going to pack all our troubles in the old kit bag, and smile while we do it. I donít mean the smile of fun, a smile that has no special significance, but I mean the kind of smile that Donald Hankey speaks of in The Beloved Captain. The smile that comes into life when the Comrade in White draws near and abides in the citadel of oneís soul. We have read those wonderful pages of the men who were lost and found, and how at last they went West, with all the glory of the sunset full in their faces, smiling at death as they went out. And I have a notion somehow or other that it has come to men by the multitudes over there that the consciousness of having given themselves utterly to a great cause has been the avenue of courage through which trembling souls draw near to the Divine Lord. One cannot quite believe that the going West means simply the delirious forgetfulness of present fact, and the anguish of the wound received yesterday. It must also be that those who have consciously surrendered all that they have for the sake of humanity, looked up as they went out and saw the smiling face of Him who wrought for us, and fought for us, and died for us. One of the greatest things that the Young Menís Christian Association is doing over there, and one of the things which we must be constantly praying for over here is that there shall be among our men over there that sense of mastery, that victory over suffering that shall enable them to smile the sort of manly smile that would befit Him who is chief among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely.
Again, it is a part of the function of the Young Menís Christian Association to discover the troubles that do not have to be carried at all, and to see that those troubles are left behind. There are troubles that are met outside oneís life. A great many of them these days bear on their southwest corner the mark "Made in Germany." Troubles for humanity that we are trying little by little, in the large and in the small, to keep wrapped up. And the Young Menís Christian Association helps, as best it may, in respect to this.
But the greatest troubles, the troubles that fret and worry, are homemade troubles, the sort of troubles that men make for themselves. And that is what Y. M. C. A. men out there in France will be facing from first to last, and their time and their energy will be occupied in the correction and the destruction of such troubles. Troubles intellectual; troubles that grow out of the habits of life; troubles that grow out of the feebleness of the soul, and the handicap of previous conditions; troubles that grow out of the newness and strangeness of the conditions in which men find themselves. And the purpose of the physical helps, the recreational helps, the intellectual helps, the moral helps, and the spiritual helps, brought to the army by the Y. M. C. A. is to aid this man to rightly handle his varied troubles and fit him for the task he has in hand.
Now, if that man is really to be helped, someone must keep by him. It isnít sufficient merely to have a theory and philosophy of life; it isnít sufficient to have the theory of the faith; there must be a practical knowledge of the faith, and there must be the actual approach to the very citadel of this manís confidence, if we are to bring him in touch with that great Comrade in White.
There are a few things that are quite essential in this process that is set before you. I think it would be an exceedingly unfortunate thing if there were no ministry to that man who is fighting with the force of might as the force of might fights against civilization and humanity; if there were any lack of sympathy with him in the task that occupies his hands. The one thing that is characteristic of the Association as the Association is known over there and over here, is that the Young Menís Christian Association is qualified by reason of its apprehension of the facts and by reason of its interpretation of the spirit of the Master to stand beside the men in khaki in an absolutely red-blooded sympathy.
It is highly significant that the spirit of the Association is of so fine a type that General Pershing seems unhesitant and unlimited in his readiness to commit great tasks to the Association. If there is anyone on this side of the seas who assumes even to put an interrogation after the Association, the practical answer to such an objection is the attitude of the great commander over there. There can be no question but that General Pershing is doing all he can do to maintain the morals and morale of the American army. In this the nation rejoices and rejoices too to feel that the commander of our expeditionary forces is striving to meet not only the expectations of our people but also the expectation of Almighty God.
The Y. M. C. A. men are over there to stand beside the champion of human liberty. They are over there to strengthen the hand and make courageous the heart of this chivalrous representative not only of civilization, but of Christianity; this representative of our manhood, and also this representative of our Divine Master. And they must keep close to him and touch his life constantly with their own deep conviction as to the justice of the cause to which he is giving the last full measure of devotion.
It is a wonderful task to which the men of the Y. M. C. A. go. It is altogether so. There is no eight-hour day in the Association over there. There is no bomb-proof job in the Association over there. I havenít discovered many eight-hour days for any really red-blooded soul participant in what is transpiring over there or here. I really donít have many of them myself.
There is a great deal that doesnít have any peculiar glamour about it when you really get at it. A good part of it is the prosaic sort of task that puts a rough edge on nerves, but it is a task from first to last that is to-day and forever glorified. When there is a consciousness that all one has and is goes into the task, and that it is done for His sake, and for the sake of the world He loved, and for this common man whom civilization has agreed to befriend this day, then the task is greatly worth while. It is the sort of task that any strong-winged angel of God would be glad to take, and would gladly exchange the
heights of joy yonder for the dusty highways of earth, that he might have share in the redemptive work of this present day.