This was the real beginning of the new year in Sunday School work. Last Sunday was Rally Day. Today we began to get acquainted, and find out how much or how little we know. Twenty-one starry-eyed little girls comprise my own flock. They marked down their ages as 9, 9-1/2, and 10. Only one girl knew more than I did, and paid no attention at all. She's our "problem" child - left fatherless and motherless, with scads of money, and the wrong set of values. Ellen is a real challenge to me; I hope I can win her over to God's side. Children of ten are still very pliable. I consider it the greatest privilege in the world (outside of motherhood) to help mold their young lives. I just hope these girls are looking forward half as eagerly to next Sunday as I am. Our own children have marvelous teachers this year. How lucky they are!
Monday. - "You never miss the water 'til the well runs dry." And you never fully appreciate your washing machine 'til it has a nervous breakdown, and has to go to the hospital, leaving you with a whole tubful of soaked clothes to do by hand. Wouldn't our foremothers smile at our softness? When these atom-smashing scientists solve the mysterious power of uranium, and link it with the power of ether waves, I expect to do all my housework by "remote control." Then we idle women will get into all kinds of mischief - if we don't look out.
Tuesday. - "Vanity, thy name is woman." That's a laugh. Virgil, Jr. got his new - his first - band uniform today (brown, with gold braid) - and you couldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole. I had to shorten the pants, move the coat buttons, and pad the hat, but even so, in the eyes of his doting mother, the embryo John Philip Sousa looked quite grand. Incidentally, his high school team won in football, which made the day perfect.
Estelle started night school at night. She decided to take up the stenotype. Since she is required to buy a stenotype ($57.50, new), she asked me to call the former housemother of our dear sick friend, Betty, who has, with Betty's consent, been trying - for the last two months - to sell the latter's stenotype machine. View the irony of this incident, and the sad object lesson of my procrastination. Being busy all day (and somewhat flustered over the unexpected tailoring job) I put off that telephone call until evening, only to be called by the stenotype's guardian and told that she had just sold the machine - for $15. Estelle, home from a long day's grind, had the grace not to reproach me, which is more than I can say for her mother, had the situation been reversed. Young people are awfully decent about the blunders of their elders.
Wednesday. - A lovely day. Too nice to be indoors; so I idled in the back yard, chatting with my next-door neighbors; both young, married; one childless, and the other with four children, the baby of which is the darling of our hearts. I like my neighbors so much. But three doors down the street is one I can't tolerate. She talks to her five-year-old son as if he were the curse of her life; makes no overtures of friendship to her women neighbors, but keeps them all for the nice male clerks of our stores. Ronnie, her beautiful boy (I mean his face, not his manners) came home crying just now, his little world all topsy-turvy; but his busy, "tough" mother just ordered him to "shut up" and keep out of her way. Oh, when you think of the priceless women you know, who are denied motherhood, that would give all they have for her privilege. It isn't fair.
Thursday. - Lacking ambition for prolonged activity in domestic affairs, I took a good book, "There's No Place Like Home," by James Lee Ellenwood. He is such a comfort, for he makes you feel you and your children are fairly normal, after all. I love his forthrightness. The little English children - innocent victims of brutal warfare - are indeed to be pitied, and to be welcomed with open arms to this land of freedom. But, in the security of parental love, they are less to be pitied than our five-year-old neighbor. Charlie and I were the unwilling witnesses of a "blitzkrieg" - of slaps on his little face and head - because he had begged, and finally screamed at his mother to "ride" him home. (She was riding his bike.) The expression, "She makes me sick," became very real for a wave of nausea bowled me over for a while. What to do. This thing cannot go on in our civilized community.
Friday. - Last night there was an air raid - of bombs, hitting my conscience: "Do something for that defenseless child." "Help that ignorant young mother." I scurried to an air raid shelter, where a Voice (it sounded like the voice of Common Sense, said, "Who are you to pose as an authority on child training? Mind your own business. You can't intrude into their private lives." But the raid continued; internal warfare, too. Here was a woman I fairly hated. I could not help until I got that hate out of my heart. Here I was, wearing the tag called "Christian," casting my ballot for Jesus at every election, but not really toiling with Him in His great reclamation service. It was the toughest assignment that my conscience had ever given me, fortified with the remembrance of how a neighbor "interfered" in my behalf when I was four years old - and the incalculable good she did - and carried on by my own remorse over the undeserved whippings that Estelle received. I found myself ringing the doorbell of my erstwhile enemy. She was in the basement, and Ronnie had just turned the house to bad account - so she was in no mood for visitors. I almost fled in panic. Frankly, I was scared stiff. Finally, she came to the door, broom in hand, and a thunder-cloud on her face. Not an auspicious opening. I told her that I had come on a very special errand, and would she have time to see me. She invited me in, but the atmosphere was that of an enemy camp, with all the soldiers on guard. I had to disarm her first. This came in sincere praise for her housekeeping; and really I envied her exquisite taste. Soon she was talking about her five brothers - all older - who spoiled her to death, the father, who never laid hands on her, and died, a hero; the younger sister, who "put her nose out of joint;" the mother, who trounced her plenty. No wonder she likes men better than women. I can't go into detail about the delicate matter of her treatment of her child; I told her as gently and kindly as I could; to my joyful surprise, she took my counsel in the spirit in which it was given. She is lonely and homesick in this strange city; she is an "immortal unaware," as Celia Caroline Cole puts it; maybe I can help her. At any rate, I have a cordial invitation to come back, and that warms my heart.
Saturday. - Old Satan certainly hauled me on the carpet today, for not listening to him. He filled my boys with mischief, and made me want to take a strap to them. They comforted me at the end of the day, by saying that all had been peaceful in Ronnie's household - at least, in the open.
Sunday. - The choir sang an anthem by Geoffrey Shaw, the words by John Greenleaf Whittier, that was like a sweet benediction to the week's experiences:
O brother man! fold to thy heart they brother;
Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
Next - 10/10/40 - Conemaugh Preachers