JUNE 19, 1939
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I used to think it was a good thing to divest oneself as far as possible, of interest in all material possessions. All my life I have seen people tied by them and, while I can see that historically it is interesting to own things which have come down in a family through various generations, there is very little I really want to cherish except from this historic standpoint. This, of course, could be done better in museums than in a home.
It is true that what little jewelry I possess is more valuable to me from a sentimental viewpoint than from its intrinsic value. I was, therefore, quite horrified this year, when I was urged to insure certain of my possessions, to find that the insurance value was far more than I had dreamed possible. The jeweler told me that because these things are old, they could not possibly be replaced, which made me at once put them in the safe deposit vault with the sense that they should be preserved for one more generation at least.
However, in spite of all my rationalizing, I find myself becoming attached to foolish things like a syringa bush in full bloom outside my door, or the view from my desk or my upstairs porch, a certain chair, a certain picture. A sad experience and somewhat comic, for I can no longer feel superior to those who cherish their material possessions.
Not long ago I received a letter from someone in San Antonio, Texas, taking me to task for having said that San Antonio had the highest death rate from tuberculosis of any city of its size in the country, and challenging me to correct my statement. I had taken my information from what I had thought was a responsible source, but when this letter came, I went to the United States Public Health Service and learned that no rates for cities had been compiled since the census of 1933. In that year, San Antonio ranked second in death rates from tuberculosis among the one hundred largest cities of the United States. Oddly enough, the highest death rate per thousand population was at that time in another Texas city. Two other cities in the Southern States came third and fourth.
This is probably accounted for by the fact that many people who are seriously ill seek health in these milder climates. In great part, it is due also to the fact that in those States, Negro and Mexican populations are numerous, and these two races are especially susceptible to this disease. It is for this reason that I felt it so important that doctors and nurses of the Negro race should get adequate training in the care and prevention of tuberculosis. The high death rate is undoubtedly due to the fact that the disease is often not discovered until it is in an advanced stage. Among our Negro and Mexican populations the standard of living is low due to economic conditions and, in consequence, preventive measures are often neglected.