This I Believe

McKinney, Howard


  • Howard McKinney describes growing up in an urban city (Pittsburgh) and explains that, because of the influence of a Sunday School teacher he directed his life away from crime, he feels compelled to offer similar opportunities to Pittsburgh's youth today.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Howard McKinney put himself through the University of Pittsburgh by working in the steel mills. His ambition was to become a doctor, but there wasn't enough money. Instead, he went into social work. Largely as a result of his initiative and understanding, a hopeful project called Hill City came into being. There, Pittsburgh's Negro youth find facilities for recreation, and a chance to work out their problems under intelligent, sympathetic guidance. This is Howard McKinney's creed.
I was born in a congested residential area in the city of Pittsburgh. I have not called it a slum area because I have always disliked the term because of its implications. My friends and classmates were all born and raised in the same district. At an early age, like most young people, I fell under the influence of a boy whom I looked upon as a real hero. In fact, there were some ten or twelve of us in our little gang, and we all looked upon Johnny as a hero.
Johnny was a goodhearted kid, but his parents had been very careless about what they permitted him to do. I can recall hearing his mother brag about the fact that she fooled the streetcar conductor by dropping a penny in the fare box instead of the regular streetcar token. Johnny also told me that on several occasions his mother had sent him to the door to tell collectors that she wasn’t in when she
did not plan to pay a bill. However, all of us liked Johnny because he would steal things and share them with us and also tell us improved methods for robbing the huckster or the small corner grocery store.
I often wondered what would have become of me if my mother had not seen me one day as I was stealing a cake from the store on the corner. My father, mother, and I had quite a conference at home from which I emerged very tender, much weaker, but far wiser. It was at that point that I fell under the influence of my new Sunday school teacher. He was a former ballplayer and an all-around good guy. He set up a Scout troop and took us on hikes and camping.
It was this man who taught me to use the Bible as a guide to successful and peaceful living, and who also taught me many of the guiding principles, which I now use in my work with young people. In fact, it was Jerome Hill who first gave me the
idea of trying to render real service to other young people by attempting to show them that all antisocial acts were carried out by people who had lost respect for themselves and others.
At about this point, Johnny and two of my former friends were picked up by the police for stealing, and they were sent away to a house of correction. This if nothing else convinced me that certainly crime did not pay. But I also derived this one thing which will still remains with me and has been, perhaps, my real reason for having the type of work in which I am now engaged. I felt a sense of guilt when Johnny and Joe were sent away because, as Mr. Hill put it, if I had really been my brother’s keeper, they never would have gotten into difficulty. Instead of doing some of things that they were doing, I should have tried to use my influence to keep them out of trouble. In fact, I should have insisted
that they go to Sunday school with me and join my Scout troop.
Since that time, I have tried to use every means at my command to keep young people—as well as adults—from doing anything which would lead them into serious difficulty. This has called for a great deal of study of my fellow man so that I could, in some way, analyze his behavior and help alleviate some of the conditions which lead people to commit antisocial acts. I am happiest in this type of work, and I greatly doubt that I would be happy in any other type of employment. My Bible tells me that, “I am my brother’s keeper,” and this I believe.
That was Howard C. McKinney, director of Pittsburgh's Hill City, a strong, soft-spoken man who is doing a big job.