The Fence or the Ambulance?


"Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,

Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant:

But over its terrible edge there had slipped

A duke and many a peasant;

So the people said something would have to be done,

But their projects did not at all tally:

Some said, "Put a fence round the edge of the cliff";

Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,

For it spread to the neighboring city

A fence may be useful or not, it is true,

But each heart became brimful of pity

For those who had slipped o'er that dangerous cliff,

And the dwellers in highway and alley

Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,

But an ambulance down in the valley.

"For the cliff is all right if you're careful," they said;

"And if folks even slip or are dropping,

It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much

As the shock down below-when they're stopping."

So day after day when these mishaps occurred,

Quick forth would the rescuers sally

To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff

With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old man remarked: "It's a marvel to me

That people give far more attention

To repairing results than to stopping the cause,

When they'd much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief," cried he,

"Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;

If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense

With the ambulance down in the valley."

"Oh, he's a fanatic," the others rejoined;

"Dispense with the ambulance? Never!

He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could:

No, no! We'll support them forever.

Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?

And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?

Why should people of sense stop to put a fence,

While their ambulance works in the valley?"

Thus this story so old has beautifully told

How our people, with best of intentions,

Have wasted their years and lavished their tears

On treatment, with naught for prevention.

But a sensible few, who are practical, too,

Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;

They believe that prevention is better than cure,

And their party will soon be the stronger.

Encourage them, then, with your purse, voice, and pen,

And (while other philanthropists dally)

They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence

On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

-- Joseph Malines

Better guide well the young, than reclaim them when old,

For the voice of true wisdom is calling.

To rescue the fallen is good, but tis best

To prevent other people from falling.

Children live what they learn; yes, they do what they see,

And we are the ones they will follow.

Unless we don't care, let them go anywhere,

Then our words to them will be hollow.


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