When We Choose the Best Way
When We Share
One of the happiest times of the day for Jim and Jane was the evening, when all the chores were done and they could sit in the twilight on the porch with Grandfather and Grandmother. They loved to watch the fireflies flitting over the grain fields, and hear the whippoorwill calling from the woodlot. Sometimes when it was moonlight the mockingbird sang in the magnolia tree.
It was nice to lie down on the cool grass in the yard and look up at the sky. Since they were accustomed to life in the city, Jim and Jane had ever taken time before to notice how beautiful the stars are. Grandfather knew a great deal about stars and he pointed out the ones which he knew. Sometimes Grandmother told them a story about her girlhood days.
One Saturday evening they were sitting on the porch in the twilight and Grandmother had just finished telling a story about her first birthday party. David had had a birthday that day and both Jim and Jane had had a very god time at his party. They couldn’t forget the delicious homemade ice cream and cake which had been served.
Saturday nights were never so quiet as other nights because a great many cars were on the road. It seemed that many of the people in the country chose Saturday night to go into town to the movies or to the stores. Grandfather and Grandmother preferred to do their shopping at some other time. Sometimes Jim and Jane wished that their grandparents would be interested in going into town on Saturday night. They wanted to see what it was that attracted so many people.
As Grandmother finished her story about the birthday party, a car came rattling and bumping down the road. It had only one light, and every part of it seemed to be loose from its nearest parts.
“It sounds like Mike Payne’s old car,” said Grandfather.
Jim watched the car for a moment. “He surely seems to be weaving over the road. Maybe he has a flat tire.”
“I doubt it,” Grandfather answered. “He is probably drunk again. Mike goes off like that every now and then, and the pity of it is that he stays drunk for several weeks when he gets started. His wheat is ready to cut too. I hope that I am mistaken.”
“Somebody ought to tell him how to be temperate. I guess he doesn’t know when he has enough,” said Jim. “If he likes to drink maybe a little wouldn’t hurt him but he ought to know when to stop.”
“Do you think,” asked Grandmother from her chair as she rocked gently, “that anyone really knows when to stop, Jim? Is there any good in drinking at all?”
“I don’t know,” said Jim slowly. “Probably there isn’t, if you think about it like that. They say there isn’t any food in cigarettes or beer or anything like that. They don’t do you any good. But many people use them, and if you don’t take too much I guess there isn’t much harm in them.”
“But Jim,” interrupted Jane, “don’t you remember that when David joined the church Grandmother said that the Brethren do not believe in strong drink or smoking. People in the Church of the Brethren aren’t supposed to use these things at all, are they, Grandmother?
“But that’s being very tight,” Jim said as he stretched out on the grass at the foot of the porch steps. “Some of the other churches don’t say much about it if you smoke and drink a little. I don’t see why you have to be different in the Church of the Brethren.
From his side of the porch Grandfather cleared his throat and asked, “Have you ever been glad, children, that your dad does not drink or smoke?”
“Well,” Jim said with hesitation, “I’m surely glad that he doesn’t get drunk and I guess maybe he has done more for us because he doesn’t spend money for cigarettes; but I think that if he wanted to smoke it would be his privilege.”
“When he was a boy like you we talked about it,” said Grandfather. “He didn’t think smoking was too bad and I asked him to wait until he was twenty. After that he decided for himself. I think he counted up what smoking would mean in money every year and he also noticed what it did to the health of some people. Then he made up his mind. I have always been proud that he could be big enough not to smoke even when he went to the university and much of the time was with fellows who did.”
“But there are people in the Church of the Brethren who smoke, aren’t there?” asked Jan. “I say a man smoking in a car last Sunday morning after church.”
“Yes,” said Grandmother, “some member of the church do smoke. The fact that we have temperance as one of the principles of the church does not mean that everyone follows it. I suppose there are a few people in the church who drink too, such as Mike Payne. He is a church member. Some of them drink just a little and are considered respectable, but I feel that they would be better people and could help the church and the world more if they did not do these things.”
“I think you’re right,” agreed Jim, “but I think also that it’s terribly hard to be different from other people.”
“But everyone who is truly Christian must be different,” Grandmother said softly. “Jesus was, you know. He set a pattern that was different, and we so want to be like Him have to be different too.”
Learning the Brethren Way with Jim and Jane
Book by Dessie R. Miller, illustrated by Harry Durkee
Elgin, Illinois: Brethren Publishing House, 1951.