"Living Our Beliefs"

"Living Our Beliefs"

Excerpts from Gordon Engle's article, "Living Our Beliefs":

“Life—human life, sacred life—this is the gift of God to every mortal being. A sense of this sacredness of human life must be expressed by a desire on the part of each individual for some means of helping to enrich and enliven that life. From the very beginning of the Civilian Public Service program there has been an incessant call for work of greater significance. This call did not come from the government, nor from the opposing and antagonistic public, but from the assignees themselves. The basic factor for their stand as conscientious objectors is their belief in the sacredness of human life. The only way to make this belief constructive is for them to do something positive toward making life richer and more bearable for all.  Is there any wonder then that the call for help in mental hospitals, criminally insane institutions, and institutions for the treatment and care of mentally retarded children was answered immediately by volunteers from the group of men in C.P.S. camps? It is significant that these men volunteered for such jobs, even when they were aware of the handicaps and distastefulness of these tasks.”

“…If these men volunteered for these jobs because they were interested in human suffering and wished to help in every way possible to alleviate this suffering, then one would naturally expect to see their ‘way of life’ reflected in their work. Also out of the CO’s ‘way of life’ positive techniques should reveal themselves; and from these techniques arises the question of whether or not the ‘way of love’ will work in practical living.”

“…This is an experience given by Loris Habegger in his article ‘Experiences in the State Mental Hospital, Marlboro, New Jersey’: ‘The work of the attendants is characteristically menial and requires a lot of patience and determination I was deeply gratified the other evening as I conversed with one of our men who is in charge of a colored male cottage. It was interesting to note his interest in each of his patients, and his attitude toward them was something which made one’s heart glad he was in C.P.S. He was especially pleased with one patient who had been apathetic for years, and for him there seemingly was nothing to be done. Today this patient stands on the threshold of a new era of life, for the care and attention of the C.P.S. man has him in a position of probable parole from this institution. All this because someone cared!’”

“...One very interesting illustration of the CO’s technique comes from Lima, Ohio, where there is an institution for the criminally insane. All the patients in this institution have behind them criminal records and in many cases are the worst possible mental cases to care for. It had been the practice for all attendants to carry black-jacks for protection, but when the nit of C.P.S. men came, they asked to go on the wards without these clubs. They were given permission but warned that it was a dangerous action. It worked out so well that the practice of carrying black-jacks was abandoned for all employees. This of course created an entirely new and different patient and attendant attitude.”

“...The CO’s and their ‘way of life’ have made a definite contribution in many places and will continue to do so if their ‘way of life’ is consistently followed in everyday contacts with the patients and fellow employees. It is commendable on the part of the heads of these institutions that they have accepted so readily these contributions from a minority and an unpopular group of men. General hospitals, mental hospitals and other humane institutions are founded primarily upon the basis of love and sympathy for the unfortunate. The conscientious objectors share this love and sympathy for needy humanity, so let both work together for the advancement and progress of this worthy cause.”


--Taken from Anniversary Review, a publication of camp #93. May 1945. p53, 57. In "'Anniversary Review,' 1944," folder 14/99, series IX-13-1. MCC Records Collection, Akron, PA.