A Child’s Sympathy for Poverty and Suffering

“It is not true that children have no feeling for suffering, for the injustice and social guilt of our world…The educator’s task of awakening the child to to all mankind accords with a living concern inherent in the child.” Eberhard Arnold discusses the inborn sensitivity of a child towards poverty and suffering.

It is not true that children have no feeling for the suffering of man, for the injustice and social guilt of our world; the only evidence for such a false view would be children brought up in an artificial environment, removed from reality. But even these children have a longing for the life of a “street urchin,” for friendship with “poor children,” which ought to show anyone the error of this opinion.

The awakening child knows about the divided nature of man: the fight against himself, against his evil impulses, and the fight for himself, for the true calling of man. Thus the child can be awakened at an early age to the mystery of man, for he knows the longing of the human soul and its capacity for devotion. The child lives in expectation, with an inkling of the divine, which is the only way in which the mystery of man can be unveiled. The educator’s task of awakening the child to individual men and to all mankind accords with a living concern inherent in the child.


The children’s community should not be exclusive; rather it needs the strength to receive and include new children in its circle again and again. Children are truly ready to trust and are therefore open at any moment to be friends with a newcomer.


No work with children is truly alive unless it reaches out toward all mankind. This is so deeply implanted in the children that they have a constant urge to extend their children’s community by fighting for and winning others for their group. From their own circle of experience they seek to reach the outside world of children and adults, often very different from their own.


From: Children’s Education in Community  (Plough Publishing House, 1976, 2017)

Article edited for length and clarity.