Dare to Be Different
SARA Olney's thoughts kept time with the rhythm of old Bell's hoofs, as dear, familiar scenes glided by as she sat beside her father in the one-horse buggy on her way to the train that was to take her away to the first big adventure of her life. Every once in awhile she looked through the little window in the back of the buggy to see if her new brown tin trunk was still securely tied on. A small brown pasteboard suitcase, also new, was between her feet and the dashboard in front. Her first suitcase and her first trunk that spoke of her first real journey away from home.
She was daydreaming of attending church the next morning in a faraway country town, and of beginning her teaching in a two-room country school the Monday following. Seventy-five dollars a month was to be her salary! Seventy-five dollars! And her first year of teaching! Why, at home she could only have received fifty dollars, and she would only be about eighty miles away! Eighty miles! Suddenly the distance seemed far, but she smiled resolutely as she mused, and I'll be home for Christmas! What presents I shall bring!
Her Father's voice interrupted her thoughts, "My girl, I'm not one for preaching, as you know, but there are a few things I would say to you by way of counsel: You know our Church standards. You may meet and mingle with people who do not live these standards. Dare to be different should the occasion demand. Live as you know, my dear. You've been a good girl, Sara, and I have full confidence in you. I trust you to do the right thing always."
"Yes, Papa. I'm glad you have faith in me. But the community is a Latter-day Saint one. Mrs. Daugherty, where I shall board, is a good Church worker, the trustee told me. So I don't think I shall have any hard decisions to make."
"Perhaps not, my girl, but take your old father's advice in case you do."
"Oh, I will, Papa. I've always felt that what you said was right, you and Mama both."
A half hour later when her trunk had been checked and she was carrying her suitcase ready to get on the train, she kissed her father goodbye, and said, laughingly, "Smile, Papa! Don't look so serious. I'll be home again you know, and I'll write each week, I promise. Don't worry, Papa."
"I'm not really worrying, for I think I know my girl. But the fact that my oldest child is leaving home makes me a little sad. But I wouldn't hold you. Fledglings must leave the nest."
"Yes, Papa, and you and Mama have given this fledgling strong wings, so let your eyes twinkle before I leave."
"All aboard!" sounded, and with a quick kiss, Sara walked up the train steps, found a seat, and waved through the window at her father.
He watched the train until it was out of sight then began his journey homeward. A time or two tears filled his eyes and he murmured, "Our little Sara! Time has sped too fast."
"Strange how one child going leaves such an emptiness even when we have seven more," Mr. Olney said to his wife that evening.
"Not strange, Papa, for the heart that has expanded to make room for each one does not shrink. I just hope I have done all I should to make her strong enough to know and choose the right."
"You have, Mama. I've often wondered at your ability to teach the principles of the gospel and the truths of life in simplicity as you have done from the time the children were infants. You haven't failed in any little way. I only hope I have done my part as well. Sara is a good girl, but she's going out into the world, and the world isn't home."
"Sara will be all right, Papa, I feel sure. But she may not spend wisely, not for a time. Why, I think I might even spend foolishly myself, if suddenly I found I had seventy-five dollars a month. But she'll pay her tithing, first of all, as she always has, so she'll come out all right."
"Yes, but she's so young and innocent and doesn't think Latter-day Saints would ever do wrong."
ARA'S first letter was reassuring. It was filled with her joyous experiences of teaching her sixteen pupils in the first four grades, and of her good times with folks she had met at Church and Mutual. She went on to say:
Really, Papa, you don't need to worry. I'm recalling what you said to me as we drove to the train together. There's no occasion at all, no need to dare to be different here, for the people I have met live their standards as we do. I've been in several of their homes and the gospel is lived, Papa.
Her next letter eased their worries still more. Her parents read it eagerly, hurriedly, and reread parts of it over and over:
I am now a teacher in the Sunday School and in Mutual as well. A small ward requires some people to hold more than one office. The young people are friendly and clean living. I was quite attracted to a young man who works for the bishop. He walked me home from Mutual last night. But, today, Mrs. Daugherty told me he is not a member of the Church, just a transient whom the bishop hired for the fall work. So I shall not go places with him. I feel certain he will ask me to go to the harvest dance next week, but I will decline sincerely and politely and tactfully, I hope. Some day he may join, who knows ... ?
You see, I do remember your counsel, Papa. Remember when I began dating with Jed not knowing he was a non-Mormon? But you found out, Papa. It seems but yesterday, instead of a year ago, when I was sitting on your knee and hearing you say, "If you never go with nonmembers, you will never marry out of the Church." Then, how wise you were, for you continued, "I just wanted to let you know how I feel, now the decision is up to you." Of course, I stopped dating Jed. How could a daughter do otherwise with a father like you?
UT it wasn't more than two weeks after Sara had written the letter that she had a different and startling experience. It was Saturday, and she had been invited to eat dinner, as the noon meal was called, at the home of two of her pupils. The family had the threshers, and the working men and the family ate together at one long table. To her surprise, she found her cup, along with those at the places of most of the adults, was filled with coffee. When she did not drink it, the man across the table from her, a Mr. Watson, a member of the Church and a trustee on the school board, a middle-aged man with a large family, looked squarely into her eyes as he raised his cup and challenged, "I dare you!"
Sara, who had never been afraid to accept a dare--in the right direction--said, "But I have never drunk tea or coffee in all my nineteen years. It was never served in my home. I'd rather not."
"Come, be a sport," he urged her, "just this once." Again he lifted his cup, looked directly and compellingly at her.
She met his gaze steadily for a long moment, lifted her cup from the table, held it for a few long seconds, then set it down and said, "I cannot."
"You won't take a dare!" the challenger's voice was loud enough to carry throughout the house.
Slowly and calmly Sara answered, "I would be a coward and a traitor to what I know is right if I drank that coffee. I shall keep my record clean.
You could have a heard a pin drop in the silence that followed. Then Mr. Watson spoke, "I admire you for your dedication to the teachings of your parents and the Church. Would I had remained likewise true, for I was taught the same as you. I hesitate to think what my sainted mother in heaven must think--if she knows. Thank you, my dear, for daring to do right."
At the supper table in the Olney home the next week, the entire family listened attentively as their mother read Sara's letter aloud. She had read it to herself over and over in the afternoon. In it Sara gave a detailed account of the incident and expressed her appreciation for her family and the way of life she had been taught, both by precept and example.
ITH the letter had come a check for thirty-five dollars. Stapled to it, was a note which read: Surprise! I've planned this for a long time, and it has been so much fun! Each month you will receive the same to help out a bit. You will need it, with Linda in college this year. . . . Yes, I'll have plenty without it. My board and room cost me twenty dollars a month, which leaves me twenty dollars for clothes and other things I desire. Just my little "thank you," and I want to do it.
Mama stopped reading and the children cheered, "Hurrah for Sara!" Linda's eyes were shining.
"I haven't read the P.S. yet." Mama was beaming with happiness as she did so:
I almost left out the very best part: I saw Mrs. Watson in the store yesterday. She was so happy she cried as she thanked me. She told me her husband had come home Saturday evening and said, "Throw out the tea and coffee, Martha. It will not be served in our home again." So you see, Papa and Mama, the wavelets from the stone of truth you have cast upon the waters for your family have reached outward into the stream of life for others.
"How beautiful, Papa!" There was awe in Mama's voice "So you see, my dear, we needn't worry about Sara."
Papa's eyes were lighted by an inward glow as he said, "Sara is a good daughter."