Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You haven't had enough trouble in your lives...

In Kent Haruf's marvelous Plainsong, a high-school teacher visits two bachelor ranchers to ask them to take in a homeless pregnant 17-year-old. They're about to realize it:
All right then, Harold said, you got our attention. You say you don't want money. What do you want?

She sipped her coffee and tasted it and looked in the cup again and set it back on the table. She looked at the two old brothers. They were waiting, sitting forward at the table across from her. I want something improbable, she said. That's what I want. I want you to think about taking this girl in. Of letting her live with you.

They stared at her.

You're fooling, Harold said.

No, Maggie said. I am not fooling.

They were dumbfounded. They looked at her, regarding her as if she might be dangerous. Then they peered into the palms of their thick callused hands spread out before them on the kitchen table and lastly they looked out the window toward the leafless and stunted elm trees.

Oh, I know it sounds crazy, she said. I suppose it is crazy. I don't know. I don't even care. But that girl needs somebody and I'm ready to take desperate measures. She needs a home for these months. And you—she smiled at them—you old solitary bastards need somebody too. Somebody or something besides an old red cow to care about and worry over. It's too lonesome out here. Well, look at you. You're going to die some day without having had enough trouble in your life. Not of the right kind anyway. This is your chance. (109-110)

They are speechless for a bit, and then Harold has a counterproposal:
Hell, Maggie, Harold said at last. Let's go back to the money part. Money'd be a lot easier.

Yes, she said. It would. But not nearly as much fun.

Fun, he said. That's a nice word for what you're talking about. More like pandemonium and disruption, you mean. Jesus God. (110)

Maggie leaves, asking them to call her if they change their minds. Of course you know they will. Raymond decides to take the girl in, and Harold puts up a bit of an argument:
Why wouldn't she be as much trouble? As much trouble as what? You ever had a girl living with you before?

You know I ain't, Raymond said.

Well, I ain't either. But let me tell you. A girl is different. They want things. They need things on a regular schedule. Why, a girl's got purposes you and me can't even imagine. They got ideas in their heads you and me can't even suppose. And goddamnit, there's the baby too. What do you know about babies? (112)

Of course Harold is right. Their lives will change beyond what they can imagine. For the most part, at least as Haruf tells it, their lives have been mostly in control. No, they can't control the weather, but they have technology, like barns and a house and a waterproof box with a gas flame to keep the stock tank from freezing over.

Those are anyway only technological challenges; for relationship challenges they just have each other. Taking this girl in will turn out to be an exciting adventure for them. There's heartbreak, too, but then life is like that.

Especially if we want to live in relationship with God: He loves us too much to let us stay in the same condition we are, so he will bring things into our lives that will help us grow. Our part is to trust him and walk through the door. Not to be foolish or rash, but to trust and obey.

Easier said than done, but the result is goodness.

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