Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
Before our visiting teachers were sent out we had a meeting with them. The Teacher Topic leader worked hard to get them all there. “If we cannot have a good beginning,” she said to me, “what condition will the teaching be in before spring?”
She had asked that all bring pencils and notebooks but provided herself with extras for those who would forget. She had the lesson carefully outlined and put it on the blackboard where all could see. She gave the lesson from the outline and all the teachers copied it, together with some illustrative material she had brought. Then when the lesson was finished she opened her own notebook and on the inside of the front cover was pasted a picture of an old-time sailing vessel. she held it up where all could see.
“In the days when this vessel was used,” she said, “there were no turbines or motors as we know them today. Vessels sailed under power of the wind. That inspired the poet to say this,” she read from beneath the picture:
“One ship sails east, and one sails west
By the self same wind that blows.
For it is the set of the sail
And not the gale
That determines the way it goes.”
“It is up to each of you to select your own port – that place for which you are headed. when the season’s work is over we shall see how many of us have reached our destination. Remember, you are setting the sail and the journey can end disastrously or you can weather every storm and sail triumphantly ahead. You are the one to determine that.”
She gave each of them a mimeographed copy of the vessel and the poem. “When I feel discouraged,” she ended, “I shall refer to this. That is why I pasted it in the front of my book.” Later she said to me, “If that won’t keep them working I shall have to find some other device to keep them going ahead. For problems such as this there is a solution. I shall make it my job to find it.”
As we sang the opening song for our first literary lesson I made a swift but accurate survey of the room. The attendance was average or a little better. Even Bessie Dye and her friend Ruth were here and they were not talking as usual. I was thankful they were present. I had given a great deal of thought and prayer to this group. They were the hardest of all to interest but I felt sure they had something to give us if once they became interested, and certainly the organization could help them. Our meetings are so organized that they offer something to each individual that makes for growth.
I noticed there was a flushed, slightly eager look on Bessie’s face that was new, and in her hand she clutched a paper as if fearful of losing it. It was soon apparent why. After previewing briefly the year’s work and asking questions for a few minutes on biography the leader asked Mrs. Dye to tell a part of the lesson in her own words.
Bessie went before the room tremblingly. She began slowly with her eyes on the paper but she had something to tell and soon she was telling it earnestly, understandingly. I could feel the interest of the audience rise to meet her.
She was limited to ten minutes. Then another member took up the story where she left off and finished it. Afterward Mrs. Stimmel took the floor and for the remainder of the time led a discussion and read excerpts, enough to interest the women in wishing to read it for themselves. She asked questions of two or three whose answers showed they had had the questions ahead of time. No matter; they had risen and expressed a thought. They had found the lesson did touch their lives. This woman they were studying had problems identical with some of theirs. How she solved her difficulties pointed a way to other solutions.
This lesson did not have the polish of some I had heard Mrs. Stimmel give, but it reached a greater number of women. I congratulated her afterward and asked how she had interested Mrs. Dye.
“I went to her home,” came the quiet answer, “and talked it over with her until I had her interest aroused. She did the rest herself and has already asked for the next book.”
So the success of our literary lessons was assured. Mrs. Stimmel had accepted our challenge and there was no doubt as to the outcome.
“Sister Maylord.” I turned to face the chorister. “I want to tell you how much I enjoyed the lesson today and wish I could be here to hear all of them, but we are moving.”
“Moving?” My first reaction was a sense of regret, then relief. Things have a way of adjusting themselves.
“Yes, out of town. My husband has been transferred and we are moving this week.”
Afterward I consulted my counselors. Immediately Rhoda Blomquist cried, “Now Mrs. Holsinger will have to accept.”
A deep warm glow of satisfaction stole over me. Rhoda had said that, and she had been so spontaneous and sincere about it.
“Can you go with me to ask her?”
She couldn’t, but she offered to sponsor a party for the retiring chorister.
Before leaving the building I called Bishop. He was willing as he had been before. But when I reached the Holsinger home Gloria was not there. I waited until my dinner was over and the children asleep, then went again.
“You are persistent, aren’t you, Dona? Why? What is there about your organization that fills you with such enthusiasm? I am going to propose your name for membership in the Progress Club. We need someone like you.”
I chose my words carefully. “From all nations of the world our people have been gathered. I imagine they were the open-minded ones, willing to forsake the traditional for the progressive. That in itself would be conducive to enlightenment. Then they were given a plan that rightly administered would leaven the standards of all womankind.”
“You might say that of any club.”
“We might, but would it work out the same? Our organization is knit together by something more intangible than rules and forms. I call it spirit. Clubs do not have that and they are more or less limiting in membership. That is, they are usually confined to certain social groups.”
“We do that for our own protection.”
“And thereby limit your growth and understanding. Our membership is open to every woman of moral integrity. To know women from all stations in life is to know and understand social and economic problems. I am not against clubs. They serve a definite purpose, but speaking largely, our own organization should come first to our women.”
After a great deal more along the same line she asked,
“But why pick me for a chorister?”
“We haven’t anyone in our organization just like you. You have said that as a group we lack poise. You can help to give us that. You know and love music. You have a personality that can lead. Under you I can visualize the women entering a new field by a familiar gateway. I see them learning appreciation, finding its place in their lives, connecting the history of music with our lessons, singing with understanding and appreciation.”
Gloria had been comfortable in her big chair, eyes partly closed, a slightly amused expression on her delicate features. As I finished she sat up suddenly, eagerness breaking over her face in a flood of light.
“I have always wanted to do that. I would love it.” Then her voice dropped to a conversational tone. “I’ll test your plan, Dona Maylord. I’ll see if your organization holds for me all that you promise. When do I begin?”
“Right now. Here is my magazine and the instructions from the stake board. It includes a list of suggested songs. You may plan your music accordingly.”
On my way home I had to pass the Grow house. I was walking rapidly, looking at something across the street when I collided with someone and someone’s arms pinned me tight. I struggled violently, then a little laugh reassured me. I twisted my head. By the flare of the street light I could see Tim’s laughing face.
“Tim, what are you doing here this time of night?”
“I might ask the same.”
“But I thought you were working.”
“I have been, and now I am going to work some more, but I will see you home first.”
What fun to be taken home again under the protection of his strong arm. I wanted those few blocks to last and last. At our own steps he stooped and placed a swift hard kiss on my lips.
“There you are, my dear. Run along to bed. Don’t wait for me, for there is no telling when I shall be back.”
Then he was gone and I was left staring stupidly at his retreating figure. What work was he going to do this time of night? No matter. He loved me and that left no room for doubt.
Salle Richards was waiting in the living room. After I had paid and dismissed Mrs. Jenkins, she said, “I came to pay you some on the dress and shoes.”
“Can you spare it so soon?”
“I have had a pay check.”
She wore the dress and shoes, and I scrutinized her relentlessly. If there was a flaw in her appearance I failed to find it. Her hair was sleek and shining, the result of planned care. Her make-up was moderate but becoming. Already the fretful, restless look had left her face.
“You like your work?”
“Do I? I love it. And Mr. Holsinger likes me. I can tell.”
“How could he help it? I knew you would make good. I could see it shining from your eyes.”
At that her eyes misted. “Thanks to you I took the position. There is something else I came here to tell you.” She looked down at the ring on her finger. “I am going to be married but am going on with my work.”
“When are you getting married?”
She hesitated. Then, “He has set his mind on two weeks from today. He is being ugly about my work, but I am not giving it up for anyone.”
“Why are you marrying him?”
Salle faced me in sudden anger. “Why does any girl marry any boy? To have a home. To be protected and provided for.”
I wanted to smile at her inconsistency. “But love, Salle?” I could still feel Tim’s kiss on my lips and my heart ached for this stubborn girl.
“He loves me and that is why he will finally consent to my working. He will do anything to keep me and I could go to town on that. Imagine my marrying someone who thinks he is conferring a favor on me?”
I sighed. there was nothing else to do.
“I have joined Mutual. I am going to their Hallowe’en dance.”
“I don’t think he would be interested.”
“And still you will marry him.”
She rose abruptly. “I must go now.”
As I reached to open the door for her the bell rang. It was Kent Evans. Fate? this time I would not interfere. After greeting us he asked,
“Is Tim here?”
“No. He is working.”
“Gee. I thought if I waited until now he would surely be here. We can’t seem to get together on this teaching business.”
Salle pushed past him onto the step. “Thanks, Mrs. Maylord. And goodnight.”
Kent turned with ill-concealed haste. “No sense in my waiting. If you don’t mind, I will walk down the street with you.”
As they passed under the street light I could see them. He held her arm in both his hands and she was looking up into his face laughing. There was something about them that clutched at my heart.
“Dear Lord,” I breathed, “don’t let her make a mistake.”