DECEMBER 3, 1957
LINCOLN, Neb.—The traditional Salvation Army Christmas kettles again have appeared on our streets. We have all been accustomed to seeing these for many years and I hope that we will continue to drop into these bright red kettles nickles, dimes, quarters and dollars, for they mean the kind of Christmas cheer that should appeal to us all.
The money you drop into the kettles provides Christmas dinners for hungry and homeless people, gifts for shut-ins and for neglected youngsters and hospital patients, and parties for children and adults who would otherwise have no Christmas cheer.
The Salvation Army also plans entertainment for servicemen who are stationed away from home and, after careful screening, gives money to families to help them plan a holiday observance which their own circumstances would not permit them to have.
I have always had a special feeling for the Salvation Army because so many organizations give only to the "worthy" but sometimes the Salvation Army gives regardless of the "worthiness" of those involved. I think that is an approach to charity which people of vision and experience can wisely use now and then.
A friend of mine has written me a letter, parts of which I think I should pass on to my readers. This man had been told that there were people needed to teach art and handicrafts in the occupational therapy departments of our state mental hospitals, so he went to look into it. His description, I think, would fit many of our mental institutions:
"Building after dull building, windows barred, balconies barred, large box-like monuments and back and forth walked patients on the barred balconies.... I see in this morning's New York Times that Dr. William Menninger says that mental hospitals are understaffed but the salary paid the director in his civil service position is $3,200 per year to start."
This is hardly a salary to attract very able people, and yet we need very able people in the rehabilitation work of mental hospitals.
The Menninger brothers have proved that people can be returned to usefulness with proper care, but it requires not only good doctors but good attendants and good occupational therapy. Otherwise, the hopelessness of a mental institution is conducive to permanent apathy rather than to real effort to return to normal and useful existence.
Too many of our state, and even national, institutions fall below the minimum standards for real remedial work. They become custodial institutions, costing us all increasingly more as we keep more and more people within their depressing walls.