What she finds is both the seeds of simple faith and the onset of our most basic sins:
We did not search for God when we were children. We took Him for granted. We were at some time taught to say our evening prayers, “Now I lay me,” and “Bless my father and mother.” This done, we prayed no more unless a thunderstorm made us hide our heads under the covers and propitiate the Deity by promising to be good.
Very early we had a sense of right and wrong, good and evil. My conscience was very active. There were ethical concepts and religious concepts. To steal cucumbers from Miss Lynch’s garden on Cropsey Avenue was wrong. It was also wrong to take money from my mother, without her knowledge, for a soda. What a sense of property rights we had as children! Mine and yours! It begins in us as infants. “This is mine.” When we are very young just taking makes it mine. Possession is nine points of the law. As infants squabbling in the nursery we were strong in that possessive sense. In the nursery might made right. We had not reached the age of reason. But at the age of four I knew it was wrong to steal.
She also remember with what innocence and clarity she first learned about poverty and became disillusioned with the way it is approached in supposedly Christian society. Her words are both a testament to the obviousness of our shortcomings and to the wisdom and impressionability of our youth:
Children look at things very directly and simply. I did not see anyone taking off his coat and giving it to the poor. I didn’t see anyone having a banquet and calling in the lame, the halt and the blind. And those who were doing it, like the Salvation Army, did not appeal to me. I wanted, though I did not know it then, a synthesis. I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too. I did not want just the few, the missionary-minded people like the Salvation Army, to be kind to the poor, as the poor. I wanted everyone to be kind. I wanted every home to be open to the lame, the halt and the blind, the way it had been after the San Francisco earthquake. Only then did people really live, really love their brothers. In such love was the abundant life and I did not have the slightest idea how to find it.