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A Fence or an Ambulance?
By Joseph Malinas

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confess.
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant.
But over its terrible edge there had slipped a Duke
And full 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 through the neighboring city.
A fence may be useful or not, it is true
But each heart became brim full 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 are careful, they said.
And if folks even slip and 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, as these mishaps occurred,
Quickly forth would these rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell of the cliff
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage 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 up a fence?
While the ambulance works in the valley?

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 a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
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 ‘til best to prevent other people from falling.
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley.
Better put a strong fence ‘round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.