I’m sorry there’s been a delay in getting the next book going (silly life, getting in the way). But here are the first three chapters of Soldier at the Door!
Several years ago we moved to a distant community we’d visited only once, and felt fortunate to find a couple willing to help us get settled. We took their advice about jobs, housing, schools, and the people, although at times what they claimed didn’t ring entirely true with my limited experience there.
Soon after we moved in, I began to realize that this couple perceived things very differently than we did, pointing out negatives which weren’t there and criticizing the sincere efforts of others they felt were “beneath them.” The picture they had been giving us about the community had been quite distorted.
Within weeks it became apparent that they had an agenda and were grooming us to support their efforts. As quickly as possible we severed ties with the couple and endeavored to learn the truth about our new home, which proved to be far better than we had been conditioned to believe.
Over the years I’ve ceased feeling embarrassed about being duped by this couple, and instead have grown grateful for the experience which taught me three important strategies for life:
- Gather several points of view about a situation before making decisions.
- Look for someone else’s agenda in what they proclaim to be the truth.
- Don’t make hasty decisions but weigh them out before acting.
And I’m doing all of that more each day, with every news broadcast, every political stance, every health report—pretty much everything.
I get different viewpoints, even–and especially–from those “on the other side” politically. Don’t be afraid of the opposition; learn what they believe. Debate their positions in your head.
I look for agendas and what they ultimately hope to accomplish. The end result may be hard to discern, but their ultimate goal tell you all you need to know about how they will treat you and others in the future.
I don’t make hasty decisions, especially if someone is telling me exactly what I want to hear. That’s called bias confirmation, and in our zeal to be proven right, we may be unintentionally agreeing with something wrong.
Most importantly, it’s ok to take some time to form an opinion. On many issues, I still can’t make up my mind about who to trust, so I trust no one and remain floating in a pool of ambivalence until greater light and knowledge come to me.
And how do I get that greater light and knowledge? I pray and ask God about everything, and I mean everything, that I come across.
Quite often He gives me a clear answer in the form of peace in my mind about a matter, a calm reassurance that fills me with warmth.
I’ve learned to question everything, and not to simply take someone else’s word or testimony about an issue. I’m entitled to my own answers, and God wants to give them to me, and to you, if you want them.
Sometimes He doesn’t answer me immediately because either I’m not ready for it, or I have no way to discern the truth . . . yet.
But then later the answer comes, exactly when I’m ready to accept it and act upon it. It always comes. And it will for you, just as quickly as you’re ready to accept it and move on it. With answers comes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required.
But you don’t have to trust me about this–test Him for yourself. He’ll always tell you the truth and what to believe. Always.
I seem to stay the same, but all around me children are moving on. The semester is ending this week, my students will wave good-bye and new groups will come in, many I’ve had before but are now older, many seniors for whom this will be the last semester of high school. Then they’ll walk away.
At home, I will have new grandbabies this year, a new in-law joining the family, and adult children on the move in all directions. I feel the need to chase them down, as I did when they were toddlers racing to the toy section of the store. But now, they run faster than I can.
My only consolation is that my adult children with families also express their happiness at their babies’ milestones, then complain that their children are growing too fast.
I think every generation for thousands has endured the same joyful heartaches.
“It’s time to be brave.”
My friend messaged me those words yesterday after we had been chatting about Ricky Gervais and his audacity to public tell his “Hollywood friends” what hypocrites they are. I wrote that I wished I were so brave, and she replied with only five words that have been echoing in my head:
“It’s time to be brave.”
I have another friend online who every day stands up for his beliefs in religious and moral issues, and is castigated by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. I’d cower under such scrutiny, but he wrote, “I have to say what I know is true, so that others know they’re not alone.”
“It’s time to be brave.”
In towns, in cities, in states, in countries, lines are being drawn, and we’re no longer able to straddle two worlds and pretend they’re not at odds with each other. We can either drift along helplessly with the current, letting it drag us wherever and act surprised when we find ourselves somewhere we really didn’t want to be.
Or we can fight the current, swimming with those who school like fish alongside of us, refusing to drift to an uncertain end. There’s enough of us willing to stand for our beliefs in God, in morality, in family, in our country, and in each other.
It’s time to be brave. I’ll fight the current.
“Why fight it?” Mahrree asked her neighbor. “Because what if everything we believe is wrong?”
Mahrree saw her poor neighbor’s eyes glaze over. She knew better than to get into a debate with Mrs. Shin. That was something else everybody ‘knew.’ If Mahrree didn’t break people down by logic, she did so out of sheer persistence. Mrs. Hersh realized too late she’d been dragged into the discussion, and the dread in her eyes demonstrated a frantic desire to escape.
But there was also something else there: a sudden loyalty to her society that demanded no one step out of bounds. “Then we’re wrong together,” Mrs. Hersh decided. “Being united is important,” she said as if realizing she actually believed that. “What everyone thinks together is correct,” she reasoned out loud, “and so if you follow the crowd, you’ll never be wrong.”
Mahrree’s shoulders fell. How can you open someone’s eyes who holds them firmly shut, yet claims she sees just fine?
“It’s like the river,” Mrs. Hersh went on, emboldened by Mahrree’s discouraged silence. “Everything flows downstream. Simply . . . go with that flow. It’s just easier that way.”
Mahrree saw her way back in. “Fish don’t flow downstream.”
“Yes they do.”
“No, they don’t.”
Mrs. Hersh put her hands on her hips. “Why wouldn’t they?”
“Because then there’d be no more fish up here in Edge!” Mahrree pointed out. “I’ve seen them when I’ve taken my students to see the river, and when I’ve dragged my fishing husband home again. Many fish swim in the same spot, fighting the current. A few species even swim upstream, against everything pushing them to the southern ocean.”
Mrs. Hersh pondered for a moment. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t they just go with the flow of the river?”
“Because,” Mahrree tried not to sigh at her neighbor’s inanity, “maybe they don’t like where the river is going. Salty water at the end of it likely kills them.”
Mrs. Hersh squinted. “How would they know about the salty water? Besides, so what? At least they had an easy time getting to it. They’re going die eventually, so might as well go easily instead of fighting the current.”
And right then Mahrree realized, to her horror, that the Administrators had won.
People didn’t need to think for themselves, they only needed to think what everyone else thought. They didn’t need to worry about the color of the sky, because everyone agreed it was only blue. They didn’t need to worry if they were drifting to an irreversible tragedy, as long as they were doing it together, united.
Because as long as everyone else was doing it, you should too. Hold hands and jump off the crevice together, never questioning why.
“I’d rather fight the current,” Mahrree said quietly.
Mrs. Hersh shrugged her shoulders. “You’re a lovely neighbor, Mrs. Shin, always willing to lend an egg, but I truly don’t understand you.”
The debate was over.
~Book 2, Soldier at the Door, available here.
I wrote these lines before I became a high school teacher. Now I sometimes wish my students would stop asking questions. Take yesterday, for example:
Me: Today we’re going to start Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, which is–
Students: What’s a shrew?
Me: So glad you asked! Remember when we were discussing archetypes, and one of them was a shrew? Here’s a perfect example–
Students: I thought a shrew is a small mouse?
Me: It is! And what do you know about those small rodents?
Students: They’re mean.
Me: Yes! And that leads into–
Students: And they carry rabies, right?
Me: Uh, I’m not sure–
Students: If you get bit by a shrew with rabies, will you get rabies?
Other students: You get rabies from raccoon bites, right? We had a raccoon in our trash and that’s what my grandpa said.
Me: Yes, I’ve heard that about raccoons, but I’m not sure about shrews. I would assume that–
Students: So you die if you get rabies, right?
Other students: No, you can get shots in your stomach. That should cure you, right?
Yet other students: Mrs. Mercer, if this is a Shakespeare play, are people going to die from rabies in it? Or is that only raccoons?
Me (now not even sure what play we’re about to start reading, so I look back to what I wrote on the board: Taming of the Shrew): Look, let’s get back to Shakespeare–
Students: I can look up rabies and shrews on my phone. Can I get my phone to look it up?
Somewhere at this point I blacked out.
Ok, not really, just wishing I did. Somehow I got them back on track, but now I’m thinking about a version of Taming of the Shrew which is a tragedy where everyone dies of rabies.
Get Book 2, Soldier at the Door, here.
After spending a wonderful but fast week with my children and grandchildren in Washington DC, and getting home late last night after driving through snow and ice, and taking down all of Christmas this morning, and trying to wrap my head around the idea of returning to school tomorrow (who thought a two-day week after Christmas would be a good idea?!), and realizing that I’m very far behind in grading, but still trying to plaster a hopeful smile on this weary, weary face, this quote seems quite appropriate to begin the new year:
I’ll do my best to face my students tomorrow with a “naturally pleasant face,” but it’s gonna be tough. I just checked the weather, hoping for a sudden snow day, but alas–the weather gods are against me. It’s going to be partly cloudy and 36 degrees. Curse you, decent weather!!!
Get Book 2, Soldier at the Door, here.