11 December 2006

Carrying The Weight

There was a short stretch of time between the end of child labor and our age of farming children out to multiple foster homes before dumping them on the street at 18 when an orphanage was a good solution. It may still be the best solution. What it lacks in family feeling, it makes up for in safety and education.

A few places such as that still exist. One of those places has been an inspiration for motion pictures, music and similar institutions in other states.

He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother
Rufus Wainwright

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where

But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he, to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on our way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

December 12, 1917 : Father Flanagan establishes Boys Town

In Omaha, Nebraska, Father Edward J. Flanagan, a 31-year-old Irish priest, opens the doors to a home for troubled and neglected children, and six boys enter to seek a better life. Flanagan, who previously ran the Workingmen's Hotel, a haven for down-and-out workers in Omaha, understood that mistreated or orphaned children were at high risk of turning to delinquency and crime in later years.

In the spring of 1918, no space was left in the drafty Victorian mansion at 106 North 25th Street, so Father Flanagan, assisted by sympathetic citizens, moved Boys Town to a building 10 times the size on the other side of town. Within months, enrollment at Boys Town had soared to more than 100 boys, and a school was established that later grew into an institution with a grade school, a high school, and a career vocational center. Before the new building was four years old, more than 1,300 neglected boys from 17 states had passed through Boys Town.

In 1921, Boys Town expanded again with the financial assistance of the people of Omaha, this time to a farm 10 miles west of Omaha. The institution remains at this site today and has changed its name to Girls and Boys Town to reflect its co-ed enrollment.

The 1938 Film "Boys Town" was a sentimental version of the history, but brought Spencer Tracy one of his three Oscars. Boys Town.

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