Short Stories » Singing in the Orphan Asylum

Singing in the Orphan Asylum

FEW children in Utah have ever heard of an orphan asylum, and it is likely to be a long while before they will see one here, because in our domestic system there are always relatives to take care of those who lose one or both parents. It is, in one sense, a melancholy sight to see a large building, and know that it is an institution of that kind ; it is sad to go through its rooms, and know that all those bright, youthful beings, formed to love and to be loved, are passing days and months in a life that lacks its most needful blessing, family ties. A sense of loneliness, restraint, and longing seems to pervade the whole. They may outgrow the heart-hunger, and go on without it, but that life lacks its best part after all.

Again it is a great blessing that the homeless can be gathered in where shelter, warmth, food, clothing, instruction, and guardianship are all provided. All honor and blessing to those noble and gentle spirits that take a mission upon themselves to care for the helpless. There must be a great deal of love and patience in their hearts.

When I was a little girl, my mother took me with her to visit the Protestant Orphan Asylum in San Francisco. She was one of the founders and directors. The sixty orphans were seated as in school, and a program entertainment was given to show what they had been learning. Articles made by both sexes were shown. I remember above all others there a girl who sat in a large chair, in which, it was said, she passed day and night. Some dreadful affliction had made her a cripple, and her hair was all gone, so that she wore a soft silk cap over the bandages on her suffering head, and she could not use her hands; but they said she was so good and patient they all loved her, and tried to cheer her sad life. While we were there, they sang a song about a poor mother alone in the dark with her dying son, while across the street was a mansion brilliantly lighted, where dancing and feasting went on. It was called "The Watcher." O children, think of it! I have known of a case where the only light in the sick room, was from the fire-place. This seemed hard enough. I often went to the asylum, but those visits were all sad recollections. One dear little boy was told that an uncle was coming to take him to his grandparents. He was so sweetly hopeful about it, and the others all thought him so fortunate; but the ship encountered a storm, and the good uncle was drowned. When the news of this second calamity came, no one was willing at first to bear the sad tidings to the ^dear boy. After some months a reliable friend was found who could take him to his own relatives, and that friend was a good old sea captain, going home. Not a woman was on board the ship, but a letter from the "old folks" proved that he reached there all right. Strange to say, no one ever claimed any of the rest, for whole families had been destroyed by the cholera, with the exception of these few children. It must be very sad for any person to feel that he stands alone upon the earth, the last of his family.

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