Why “Like a Road”

This website — LikeARoad.com — is a personal blog mainly as a place to share my original songs while I’m focusing on recovering from an accident. It helps keep me in a good place and is part of my lifelong spiritual health and self care strategy.

At the heart of my life mission, I love to give and help. It’s who I am. Long before I was born, one of the world’s great visionaries came up with a good way of expressing this guiding value in an essay entitled “The Cab-Horse Charter.”

In 19th century England, cabriolets were a common type of carriage. Light, nimble, usually pulled by a single horse, and called cabs for short.

If a cab horse were to fall or get sick, a handful of respectable people would rush to its aid.

But what if it were a person instead of a horse? Few would lift a finger to help.

William Booth, who founded The Salvation Army in partnership with his wife Catherine Booth, wrote about this in his groundbreaking social ministry vision “In Darkest England and The Way Out” (published in 1890).

Why is it that we parcel out our love for others based on merit, wanting every amnesty for ourselves but offering so little to others?

That’s got to change. As a minister of change myself, I’m pushing the discussion through words and music, learning what I can and sharing what I learn.

My name is Josh.

(In case you’re interested, you’ll find the original Cab Horse Charter below. Go ahead, give it a read. It’s an eye opener.)

The Cab-Horse Charter

by General William Booth
excerpted from In Darkest England, and the Way Out (1890)

I sorrowfully admit that it would be utopian in our present social arrangements to dream of attaining for every honest Englishman a jail standard of all the necessaries of life. Some time perhaps, we may venture to hope that every honest worker on English soil will always be as warmly clad, as healthily housed, and as regularly fed as our criminal convicts -but that is not yet.

Neither is it possible to hope for many years to come that human beings generally will be as well cared for as horses. Mr. Carlyle long ago remarked that the four footed worker has already got all that this two handed one is clamoring for: “There are not many horses in England, able and willing to work, which have not due food and lodging and go about sleek coated, satisfied in heart.” You say it is impossible; but, said Carlyle, “The human brain, looking at these sleek English horses, refuses to believe in such impossibility for English men.” Nevertheless, forty years have passed since Carlyle said that, and we seem to be no nearer the attainment of the four footed standard for the two handed worker. “Perhaps it might be nearer realization,” growls the cynic, “if we could produce men only according to demand, as we do horses, and promptly send them to the slaughter house when past their prime” – which, of course, is not to be thought of.

What, then, is the standard toward which we may venture to aim with some prospect of realization in our time? It is a very humble one, but if realized it would solve the worst problems of modern society.

It is the standard of the London cab horse.

When in the streets of London a cab horse, weary or careless or stupid, trips and falls and has stretched out in the midst of the traffic, there is no question of debating how he came to stumble before we try to get him on his legs again. The cab horse is a very real illustration of poor, broken down humanity – he usually falls down because of over work and under feeding. If you put him on his feet without altering his conditions, it would only be to give him another dose of agony; but first of all you’ll have to pick him up again. It may have been through overwork or underfeeding, or it may have been all his own fault that he has broken his knees and smashed the shafts, but that does not matter. If not for his own sake, then merely in order to prevent an obstruction of the traffic, all attention is concentrated upon the question of how we are to get him on his legs again. The load is taken off, the harness is unbuckled or, if need be, cut, and everything is done to help him up. Then he is put in the shafts again and once more restored to his regular round of work. That is the first point. The second is that every cab horse in London has three things: a shelter for the night, food for its stomach, and work allotted to it by which it can earn its corn.

These are the two points of the Cab Horse Charter. When he is down he is helped up, and while he lives he has food, shelter and work. That, although a humble standard, is at present absolutely unattainable by millions – literally by millions – of our fellow men and women in this country. Can the Cab Horse Charter be gained for human beings? I answer, yes. The Cab Horse standard can be attained on the Cab Horse terms. If you get your fallen fellow on his feet again, docility and discipline will enable you to reach the Cab Horse ideal, otherwise it will remain unattainable. But docility seldom fails where discipline is intelligently maintained. Intelligence is more frequently lacking to direct, than obedience to follow direction. At any rate it is not for those who possess the intelligence to despair of obedience, until they have done their part. Some, no doubt, like the bucking horse that will never be broken in, will always refuse to submit to any guidance but their own Lawless will.

The first question, then which confronts us is, what are the dimensions of the evil? How many of our fellow men dwell in this Darkest England … below the Cab Horse standard to which it is our aim to elevate the most wretched of our countrymen?

… Three millions or, to put it roughly one tenth of the population ….

Darkest England, then, may be said to have a population about equal to that of Scotland. Three million men, women and children, a vast despairing multitude in a condition nominally free, but really enslaved. These it is whom we have to save. Can anything be done for them? Or is this million headed mass to be regarded as offering a problem as insoluble as that of the London sewage, which, feculent and festering, swings heavily up and down the basin of the Thames with the ebb and flow of the tide?

This Submerged Tenth – is it then, beyond the reach of the nine-tenths in the midst of whom they live, and around whose Ironies they rot and die? No doubt, in every large mass of human beings there will be some incurably diseased in morals and in body, some for whom nothing can be done, some of whom even optimist must despair, and for whom he can prescribe nothing but the beneficently stern restraints of an asylum or a gaol.

But is not one in ten a proportion scandalously high? The Israelites of old set apart one tribe in twelve to minister to the Lord in the service of the temple – but must we doom one in ten of “God’s Englishmen” to the service of the great twin devils – Destitution and Despair?

The Essentials To Success

The first essential that must be borne in mind as governing every scheme that may be put forward is that it must change the man when it is his character and conduct which constitute the reasons for his failure in the battle of life: if he is a drunkard, he must be made sober; if idle, he must be made industrious; if criminal, he must be made honest; if impure he must be made clean; and if he be so deep down in vice, and has been there so long that he has lost all heart and hope, and power to help himself, and absolutely refuses to move, he must be inspired with hope and have created within him the ambition to rise; otherwise he will never get out of the horrible pit.

Secondly: The remedy, to be effectual, must change the circumstances of the individual when they are the cause of his wretched condition, and be beyond his control. Among those who have arrived at their present evil plight through faults of self indulgence or some defect in their moral character, how many are there who would have been very differently placed today had their surroundings been otherwise?

Thirdly: Any remedy Worthy of consideration must be on a scale commensurate with the evil with which it proposes to deal. There must be no more philanthropic tinkering, as if this vast sea of human misery were contained in the limits of a garden pond.

Fourthly: Not only must the scheme be clear enough, but it must be permanent, to go on dealing with the misery of tomorrow and the day after, so long as there is misery left in the world with which to grapple.

Fifthly: But while it must be permanent, it must also be immediately practicable.

Sixthly: The indirect features of the scheme must not be such as to produce injury to the persons whom we seek to benefit – Mere charity, for instance, while relieving the pinch of hunger, demoralizes the recipient.

Seventhly: While assisting one class of the community, it must not seriously interfere with the interests of another. In raising one section of the fallen, we must not thereby endanger the safety of those who with difficulty are keeping on their feet.

Temporal Salvation

I have nothing to say against those who are endeavoring to open up a way of escape without any consciousness of God’s help. For them I feel only sympathy and compassion. In so far as they are endeavoring to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked and above all, work to the workless, they are to that extent endeavoring to do the will of our Father which is in Heaven; and woe be unto all those who say them nay! But to be orphaned of all sense of the Fatherhood of God is surely not a secret source of strength. It is in most cases – it would be in my own – the secret of paralysis. If I did not feel my Father’s hand in the darkness, and hear His voice in the silence of the night watches bidding me put my hand to this thing, I would shrink back dismayed; but as it is I dare not.

How many are there who have made similar attempts and have failed, and we have heard of them no more! Yet none of them proposed to deal with more than the mere fringe of the evil which, God helping me, I will try to face in all its immensity. Most schemes that are put forward for the improvement of the circumstances of the people are either avowedly or actually limited to those whose condition least needs amelioration. The utopians, the economists, and most of the philanthropists propound remedies, which, if adopted tomorrow, would only affect the aristocracy of the miserable. It is the thrifty, the industrious, the sober, the thoughtful who can take advantage of these plans. But the thrifty, the industrious, the sober and the thoughtful are already very well able for the most part to take care of themselves. No one will ever make even a visible dint on the morass of squalor who does not deal with the improvident, the lazy, the vicious and the criminal. The scheme of Social Salvation is not worth discussion which is not as wide as the scheme of Eternal Salvation set forth in the Gospel. The glad tidings must be to every creature, not merely to an elect few who are to be Saved while the mass of their fellows are predestined to a temporal damnation. We have had this doctrine of an inhuman cast iron pseudo-political economy too long enthroned amongst us. It is now time to fling down the false idol and proclaim a Temporal Salvation as full, free and universal, and with no other limitations than the “Whosoever will” of the Gospel.

To attempt to save the lost we must accept no limitations to human brotherhood. If the scheme which I set forth in these and the following pages is not applicable to the thief, the harlot, the drunkard and the sluggard, it may as well be dismissed without ceremony. As Christ came to call not the Saints but sinners to repentance, so the new message of Temporal Salvation, of Salvation from pinching poverty, from rags and misery, must be offered to all. They may reject it, of course. But we who call ourselves by the name of Christ are not worthy to profess to be His disciples until we have set an open door before the least and worst of these who are now apparently imprisoned for life in a horrible dungeon of misery and despair.

To get a man soundly Saved it is not enough to put on him a pair of new breeches, to give him regular work, or even to give him a university education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged you have wasted your labor. What is the use of preaching the Gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?

You might as well give a tract to a ship wrecked sailor who is battling with the surf which has drowned his comrades and threatens to drown him. He will not listen to you. Nay, he cannot hear you any more than a man whose head is under water can listen to a Sermon. The first thing to do is to get him at least a footing on firm ground, and to give him room to live. Then you may have a chance. At present you have none. And you will have all the better opportunity to find a way to his heart, if he comes to know that it was you who pulled him out of the horrible pit and the miry clay in which he was sinking to perdition.

No compulsion will for a moment be allowed with respect to religion. The man who professes to love and serve God will be helped because of such profession, and the man who does not will be helped in the hope that he will, sooner or later, in gratitude to God, do the same; but there will be no melancholy misery making for any. There is no sanctimonious long face in the Army. We talk freely about Salvation, because it is to us the very light and joy of our existence. We are happy, and we wish others to share our joy. We know by our own experience that life is a very different thing when we have found the peace of God, and are working together with Him for the Salvation of the world, instead of toiling for the realization of worldly ambition or the amassing of earthly gain.