Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
I was quite elated over the way my various officers were assuming their responsibilities. So far their outlined plans for the season’s work had met with instant approval. It has been my experience that any well thought out plan prepared and presented intelligently by the officers will be happily received by the members. They have confidence in their leaders.
The day of her first lesson, Mrs. Horne, the Sociology class leader, came before the class with a map. On it was indicated with pictures the sections where the principal industries of men are carried on. She had drawn it herself and had tacked it to a piece of beaver-board so it would be moved in and out easily. She began her lesson by telling this incident:
“My neighbor raises the most beautiful zinnias and asters. They have taken many prizes and every woman in the neighborhood is envious of her success. I was determined this last spring to get some of her plants so I, too, might have some lovely flowers this fall. I got some and set them out around a circular plot of lawn.
“Imagine my disappointment when they turned out to be sickly, spindly plants with few blossoms, while my neighbor’s blossoms again took first prize at the fair. What do you suppose was wrong?”
I could see a smile come over the face of a woman in the audience. She raised her hand.
“If I remember rightly, you planted your flowers and then forgot them for a month. Beyond watering them every two or three days you left them to shift for themselves. The one who gave you the plants worked with hers at least two hours each day.”
Everyone laughed and Mrs. Horne added, “Yes. The way I raise flowers is a joke in the neighborhood. From lack of care my flowers showed very little of the possibilities contained in the parent plant.” Then leaving the subject she asked abruptly, “Now, someone tell me what sociology is.”
When someone answered it was the study of human relationships, she turned to the map. At approximately the place in the state where we were she drew a large circle and within it wrote some names.
“Here is where the Perkins family live. We shall have them with us all winter, so I want you to know them. They are: grandfather; father and mother; John, age 24; Rufus, age 21; Francis, 19; and two little ones, Wesley, 10, and Agnes, 6. Grandfather Perkins came into this country when it was new and took up a homestead. Later he sold his farm and he and the father went into business in town. But now we have Rufus and John coming on. The business is not large enough to absorb them and they cannot take up a homestead. Then there are the two little ones. They haven’t a farm to wander over nor chores to do, so what about them? Where are they going to play? What schools will be open to them – what chance to learn a trade or profession?”
She was a skillful questioner and by her questions tied up the lives of the Perkins family with our past lessons on Diminishing Resources, Drift to the Cities, Housing, Communication, etc., until the class had heard a very comprehensive review of the past two years’ work and knew how each lesson affected the lives of the Perkins. She took the entire class period for it and left them anxious to know what the future promised for the family. I have never seen greater interest exhibited in any subject. It promised well for the season’s work.
But while the discussion was going on, my mind lingered over the story of the flowers. Why should human plants be stunted in their growth because of lack of cultivation? When the class period was over I arose and expressed some such thoughts. Then I said:
“In our ward is a family who comes from strong, sturdy parent stock, but who need their environment enriched to promote better growth. Their soil isn’t conducive to good development. I am wondering if we couldn’t add a few things to enrich the soil and make their chance of development much more sure.” I was careful to keep my description impersonal.
Within a week I had a complete set of clothes for the family to wear for best. I had three good beds, some reputable bedding and six chairs. Mrs. Holsinger gave an old leather davenport that was sturdy enough to withstand the hard usage it would receive. Some of these things had come from the bishop, some from our cupboard and some from the women. Then, as if providence were helping us, Mrs. Holman became ill and had to go to the hospital for a few days. That gave me a needed excuse.
Bishop had found a part-time job for Mr. Holman, so I sent the Peters, husband and wife, to the Holman home to clean up. The Peters were settled in a small house nearby. After a few pushes and pulls and half-threats the big farmer had come to life. Now he attacked his neighbor’s home with determination. He painted and calcimined and repaired. Mrs. Peters washed and scrubbed. The large back room was made habitable. The good furniture was exchanged for the old. It was a clean, habitable home to which Mrs. Holman returned. It gave the Peters groceries, but the effect on the family helped was negligible though their gratitude was unbounded. The habits of years were too inflexible. Mrs. Peters helped her for a few days and for a few more she kept up the appearance, but not being well she had an excuse for slipping back into her old ways.
One evening when Tim was working, I decided to go to the store and walk home with him. I had been studying and felt that a walk in the open would do me good. I peeked in at the children. They were all sleeping soundly. They would be all right for fifteen or twenty minutes. I locked the door after me and walked swiftly down the street.
It was a dark night but crisply cool and invited swift walking, and I was happy. My work was going well. People were beginning to forget the fact that I was a young president. My home problems were fading away. Tim had been home with me more than usual and I had so many things for which to be thankful.
I had covered three of the four blocks when I became aware of people ahead of me, a boy and a girl, and they were walking close together. I could hear the excited pitch of the girl’s voice but could catch no words. they were quarreling. Not wishing to embarrass them I turned to cross the street and thus avoid passing them. As I turned, I was quite near and heard the girl say,
“You just try it, Don Grow. If you marry her –” The rest was lost as I crossed the street. That had been Nedra Williams. There was no doubt as to whom she meant by “her.” I found my thoughts leaping here and there, accepting and rejecting possibilities.
Was it right to let Salle go ahead and marry him? Was it any business of mine? Should I tell her what I had heard? After all, just what had I heard? Nothing that would stand repeating. I could tell her my suspicions, but did she not know the situation better than I? Salle was not dumb and she was going into this marriage with her eyes open. I would ask Tim. He had a supply of common sense that was refreshing.
The last few yards I almost ran. I went to the side door that he used. It was locked. that was not unusual. He would not leave it open. Skipping around to the front I looked in. There was a dim light burning, but only the one that is always left on at nights. I rattled the door but there was no response.
I turned away. Could I have missed him? It was possible, but not probable. There was nothing to do but go home. Suddenly the joy of the night was gone. Problems gathered thick about me in the dark. It was cold, and from every side things leered at me. I passed a boy and girl lingering by a tree on the corner and was opposite them before I realized they were the ones I had passed before. Only now he had his arm around her and they were murmuring in low tones.
I was nearly to the street light on the last corner when quick steps sounded beside me and a dearly familiar voice demanded:
“What are you doing out alone this time of night again, young lady?”
“Tim. I wanted to walk home with you. I thought you were working at the store.”
“I have been.”
“But you weren’t there.”
“I left the store more than half an hour ago.”
There was an edge of caution to his words that aroused my anger. Wasn’t I his wife? Why shouldn’t I know where he had been?
“Where were you?” Tact and confidence were swept away before the suspicion that entered my heart. Perhaps the couple on the corner had something to do with it. I had to know where he had been, what he had been doing.
“I’m not at liberty to tell.”
“Why? Why should you be doing something you cannot tell me about? I have a right to know.”
“Don’t be demanding, Dona. There are things come up in your work that will not bear repeating. This is one of those things.”
“Oh.” It was not until later that the unreasonableness of my attitude struck me in its full light. Just then I couldn’t sense anything except that our confidence was broken by terribly secret things. Only one fact stood out from the evening’s happenings that brought joy. Salle had not yet married Don. Perhaps now she never would.