I Am One of Aunt Hannah’s Alumni

by | Jun 9, 1998 | Caring, God's Hands, Kindness, Love

About thirty years ago (written in 1955) a class in sociology at Johns Hopkins University made a scientific study of one of the worst slum districts of Baltimore.

Tabulations were made on cards, 200 of which were marked “Headed for Jail.” On each card was the name of a boy or a girl whose background, attitude toward life, and prospects indicated a life of crime.

After a lapse of twenty-five years another class in sociology in Johns Hopkins, in searching for a project, found this bundle of cards marked “Headed for Jail.” The task of checking on every card was chosen by this class as their project for the year.

Only two persons on the cards marked “Headed for Jail” ever got there. The reason was “Aunt Hannah,” a school teacher in that slum section. Here are typical stories:

“I was the worst kid in the neighborhood,” one man said. “And how the cops did like to pin things on me! And they were usually right. One day Aunt Hannah kept me after school.

“‘You’re too smart a kid to be getting into trouble,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you come to my house for dinner next Sunday, and let’s talk?’

“I went, – can’t really remember what we did say, – but I just never had the heart to let Aunt Hannah down after that; she encouraged me to take up a career of service. Now I’m a doctor with a fine practice.”

“I am one of Aunt Hannah’s alumni,” said one of Baltimore’s prominent businessmen. “While in school I clerked in a grocery store and would steal money, candy, and groceries for a gang of boys we had organized. Of course I got caught. But I just had sense enough to go and talk to Aunt Hannah.

“She didn’t preach to me, but she did point out that when we do something wrong we must pay for it in some way. Was I willing to pay back all that I had stolen? I said I was. Aunt Hannah then worked it out with the grocer and the police.

“I did pay it all back, too. I also kept on working in that same grocery store and finally bought it. This is it, improved and modernized.” Wherever the interviewers went, they found that something from the vigorous faith of this schoolteacher had rubbed off on her young charges. The result: some of the most service-minded citizens in Baltimore.

When the college survey team visited Aunt Hannah in a home for retired teachers and reported their findings, what a great story she could have told! To their questions, however, she explained simply: “I just loved them as if they were my own boys and girls.”

That’s about all you could ever get out of Aunt Hannah. But that’s all you need to know to explain why only two out of two hundred of her boys and girls marked “Headed for Jail” ever got there.

By William L. Stidger. Source: Signs of the Times, November 22, 1955, Pacific Press. With permission from Dale Galusha dalgal@pacificpress.com


I Am One of Aunt Hannah’s Alumni