Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
“Do you think we shall ever get all our dues in?” Our secretary, Irene Walton, looked up at me in dismay.
“How many are still owing?”
“The usual group.” Mrs. Walton, like Mrs. Blomquist, had been with the former presidency. “Most of them could pay, but they seem to have forgotten.”
“Let’s remind them,” Rhoda suggested, “in a way they won’t forget.”
“What way would that be?” Mary Grosbeck wanted to know. “I think it is all right to mention dues two or three times, but beyond that it detracts from the dignity of the organization.”
“Oh,” I cried,”we shan’t be insistent if we never get them. Members do not exist just to pay dues. Yet we must have them if we keep our organization going.”
“I would be in favor of paying the delinquent ones out of the treasury. That would be the least embarrassing way to do it.”
“But I wonder if it would be the best.” I considered a moment. “That would mean that a certain group would pay their own and help pay others’ dues.”
“It is a certain group that keeps up the organization financially, anyway,” Mrs. Walton reminded me.
“But if each woman who is able pays her own dues it will give her a sense of responsibility and pride that would not come if we paid them for her. Then it will give her a feeling of belonging – a sisterhood with the group.”
“It was once suggested to us,” Irene said, “that the women save their pennies each week and apply them on the dues and magazine. That makes it easier for most of them than leaving it all until the last. There are so many expenses between October and the New Year.”
I hadn’t known about that suggestion. “Tell us about it,” I urged.
“There isn’t a great deal to tell. We asked the women to keep a little bank for their pennies, but that was too easily robbed. Then we had the magazine agent get a box of envelopes much like a card index system and put a woman’s name on each envelope. Each week they put what pennies they had in it.”
“I think that was a grand idea. Why didn’t it work?”
“We didn’t know. Evidently there was something lacking. Probably enthusiasm on the part of the officers. Or it might have been the personality back of it. One woman can put over successfully what would be a failure in the hands of another. Maybe we didn’t keep the idea before them consistently enough.”
“Find a way to keep the idea before them without offending and you will have solved the problem.” Rhoda’s voice said that was impossible.
“I have it.” I sat up suddenly. “Let’s draw a thermometer with one hundred fifty degrees marked on it. That will represent one hundred pennies for the magazine and fifty for the dues. Have it hanging where the members can see it. Each week let the magazine agent fill in with a red pencil as many degrees as there are pennies handed in.”
“You mean a thermometer for each person?” Mary asked in dismay. “That would take too much space.”
“No. I mean just one. Suppose there were forty pennies handed in the first week and there are forty women. The red ‘mercury’ would go up one degree. If sixty were handed in it would go up a degree and a half. Keep each member’s pennies in her own envelope, but add the total each time and divide by the membership. The red marking shall be done before the women each week. When it registers a hundred fifty we shall have one hundred percent for dues and magazines.”
“Some won’t do it – and suppose some finish before others?”
“When her envelope contains one hundred fifty pennies, each member may seal it and then she is through. On work day in August or September we can give a party and let the women open their envelopes and tell how they earned or saved their pennies. If any wish to hand in extra pennies we will put them in an envelope for the missions. In fact, I think we shall start with one for the missions.”
“It will work for you,” Irene Walton said, and the admiration in her voice made me feel very thankful and very humble. “You believe in it yourself and your delight and enthusiasm will be contagious.”
“It sounds like a dream of heaven,” Mary Grosbeck added. “If we did need to speak of it, we could speak of it as the thermometer instead of money. It would sound better.”
Irene Walton was still watching me. “When you first took over this work I wondered how one so young could handle it. I have noticed particularly that you tackle each problem as a problem and don’t stop until you have a solution. You do not let things slide or take care of themselves. No wonder the organization is growing.”
“Thank you, Irene.” I blinked hard to keep my eyes dry. “But do not get over enthusiastic about me. I am only one. We as officers could make plans forever, but unless we have the members working with us we would accomplish nothing. It is really they who deserve the credit. But we still need to convince some of the women in the ward that Relief Society, instead of being just another place to go, is a way of life. It has so many phases, that each member can develop along the line of her interest. By the way, I shall expect each officer and teacher to lead the parade in bringing their pennies.”
This officers’ meeting had been held in the Relief Society room and after it was over I decided to visit the Peters family. I had not been there for some time. There were so many people and problems to be handled that I could not give too much time to any one. After I had started the wheels rolling toward a solution I had to trust my officers and committees to carry on.
As I left the meeting I was filled with a deep sense of satisfaction with what we had so far accomplished. Each part of the organization was cooperating and our attendance was the largest it had ever been.
My hopes for results in music under Gloria Holsinger had been more than justified. Quietly, without criticisms or recriminations and without undue stress on the technical part of it, she made music so interesting, so simple, so desirable, she carried the women enthusiastically along to a larger appreciation. Like the class leader, she helped them to interpret and understand, then singing came as a result. No longer were there two or three determined voices leading a discordant parade. No longer were there short rasping notes nor an apathetic sing-song. They were now singing songs, songs that told something, songs that had a place in their lives.
One instance came to my mind. In correlation with the lessons we had been learning songs of home. One of these was “The Last Rose of Summer.” Such an exquisite composition must have understanding rendition. I shuddered at the way some of them carried the eighth measure. Signaling for silence Gloria had said:
“Imagine that your friends have all gone away. You wish to know if there is just one lingering somewhere. What would you do? Heartsick with loneliness, you would go here, there, everywhere, looking, looking. Notice the searching in the song. It starts at home on E flat, goes to the note above, back to E, to the note below, back to E again, to the note above and then on to the note above that. Then it closes the search with no friend found. Try it with me – slowly.”
They had tried and it had come so easily, for now they knew why the notes rose and fell.
The general tone and spirit of our meetings had been raised beyond doubt. Some day Gloria would become interested in all phases of the work. Just now music was her entire world.
As I passed Holmans’ I decided to go in for a moment. No one answered my knock. Through the unblinded window I could see a small fire burning in the stove but no one was about. The living room Mrs. Holman would undoubtedly have said, “was cleaned up.” It was free from a too great accumulation of clothes and belongings, but the effect was disheartening. I stepped to the other window. Probably no one under similar circumstance would have done any better but my hopes hit a new low. I could not see any of the clothes we had given the children for Sunday School, but nearly everything else the family owned could be seen in that bedroom or glimpsed through the door in the bedroom beyond. There had been an attempt at cleaning, but the habits of years had not been broken. Perhaps some day results would show in the children.
As I approached the Peters’ place my steps quickened in surprise. This could not be the same place. The house had not been painted, but almost everything else had been done. Years’ growths of weeds had been piled and burned and the yard raked clean before the storms so it had the appearance of having just been swept. The front steps had been mended and new window panes had replaced the broken ones. Even the screen about the porch had been mended and tacked down as an insurance against the summer that was to come. Mrs. Peters opened the door before I had time to knock.
“We saw you coming. Come in. Mrs. Holman is here and we are sewing.”
She was not the same woman I had brought from the White Daisy tourist camp. Her face had rounded and was bright with color. The old beaten look was gone and her eyes sparkled with the zest of living. From the kitchen came the sound of children playing.
“What are you doing?” I asked, after I had greeted them. The small living room was literally crowded with old clothing that had been ripped apart. They laughed and Mrs. Holman said,
“She’s helping me make use of all this old stuff that’s been given me for the past ten years. Imagine people giving me all this to make over when I can’t sew a seam.”
“You mean couldn’t sew a seam. You can now,” Mrs. Peters corrected.
She indicated a pile of material on the table. Old wool coats and dresses had been ripped apart, washed and pressed. One pile of scraps was on the floor.
“We are going to have quilts and rugs out of that pile. There will be enough for both families. She gives me a share for helping her,” Mrs. Peters explained.
Tactful Mrs. Peters to allow the other woman to be the giver.
“Mr. Peters fixed my machine that has been broken for ages. We brought it over here where we could have it handy. She won’t let me come over until my work is done.”
“I don’t want her husband suing me for alienation of affections.”
I felt a glow of pride as I looked about. The floors were bare but clean. Cheap challis had been starched and hung at the windows for curtains. I recognized it as some I had brought from the Relief Society cupboard. I had thought it could be used for rags. Mrs. Peters caught my look.
“It is grand to have a home again,” she said sincerely. “I can make most any effort if we stay put, but moving around takes all the starch out of me; and Sam is getting to be himself again. He was always all right as long as he had something to do, but he can’t stand to be idle. He goes to pieces. Bishop already has him planning the ward garden for spring. He is going to Priesthood meetings, too. Come, see what we have finished.”
She led the way into a bedroom and Mrs. Holman and I followed. On the bed was an array of coats and dresses that had just been pressed. She modestly displayed a boy’s jacket made from an overcoat turned inside out.
“That is for my Jerold,” Mrs. Holman informed me as she fingered it proudly. “We had a hard time getting it out of that old coat so as not to use the worn places. Believe me, he will be careful with this or I will know the reason why.”
There was her problem in a sentence. When she produced something by her own efforts she would care for it proportionately. Her problem was certainly being helped to a solution if it were being done slowly. One of her own class had done it. That was a fact worth remembering,.
Encouraged by my interest they showed me other things. For each girl there was a coat or skirt. There were two silk dresses for the oldest girls that defied one to guess they had been remodeled. this woman had an outstanding talent. She must be put on the work committee to help other mothers.
“You are meeting the winter pretty well, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Sam cut enough wood at the wood lot to last us two months at least. If I could get a little sewing to keep us in cash I would be content.”
“You shall have it.”
When given a chance this family had worked out its own problems. Suppose I had sent them on with a little gas?