My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Friday—A curious thing happened to me the other night. I came out of my apartment house and walked towards Eighth Street to attend a lecture given by Eugene O'Neill, Jr., at the New School for Social Research. Suddenly, I saw on the sidewalk the figure of a man. He lay there drunk or ill or asleep—very thin and very poor-looking. People glanced at him and hurried by. Some of us made sure that he was breathing. But here in a big city, what did one do with a stranger who lay senseless and helpless on the sidewalk?

What we did was to report him to the first policeman we met—which I suppose was the proper thing to do—but it left me feeling very odd. The story of the Good Samaritan kept running through my head, and I wondered whether it was possible in a big city to feel the same responsibility for your fellow man as you would feel on a country road.

I don't suppose the man was worthy, and I doubt if you can take a man you see lying on the street and have him carried into an apartment house. But leaving him there seemed heartless and senseless and inhuman, and I don't think I like the way we live in these days.

I had no further responsibility after we found the policeman, but the incident haunted me all through Mr. O'Neill's lecture about my husband as a man of ideas and a man of letters. And the next day, at Lake Success, as we argued about human rights at a committee meeting, I wondered how many human rights that poor man had. At heart I imagine I am really a country bumpkin—I like to know my neighbors and to have some sense of responsibility for them.

* * *

I have had a plea from someone who believes in the vast good that Alcoholics Anonymous has been able to do for a great many people who, without it, would apparently have been hopeless alcoholics. My correspondent calls my attention to a play in town called "The Cup of Trembling." The critics have evidently been none too kind and the audiences have been slim, yet my correspondent says it is a play which is needed to draw the attention of people to the alcoholic question.

I think more and more enlightened people have come to believe that alcoholism is a disease and that people who have suffered from it and successfully grappled with it are perhaps better able to help others than the average doctor or nurse or even sanitarium. Restraint may work for a time but, as I understand it, Alcoholics Anonymous builds strength within the individual, with the aid of people who have been through the same hard fight, know every step of the way, and therefore can really give some practical help.

If this play will give the unthinking public a knowledge of the situation and explain a tool which is ready for use—but which frequently is not used because it is not well enough known—then I think people should be induced to go and see the play. I can't say whether it is a good play or an entertaining one, as I haven't seen it, but the earnestness of my correspondent has moved me to bring it to the attention of my readers in New York.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL