The good goatherd

Ed Smith
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Other Half has always had problems with Mary.

Not Mary of the wild moor or the Mary who had a little lamb. The Mary of whom I speak, and with whom OH takes umbrage, is the Mary of Mary and Martha fame. The two sisters with whom Jesus seems to have had a nodding acquaintance.

Whenever they were in trouble, they called on Jesus for help. In our day, for two women alone that might mean something big like fixing a leaky faucet or smaller such as getting rid of a mouse.

For them, that meant him going to get their brother who had left the house sort of permanently. Thing was, they wanted him back. Trouble was, he was dead. But Jesus, like a good friend, went and got him anyway. Friends like him you didn’t find every day.

On this particular occasion, Jesus, it seems, just came for a visit. When the scene opens, we find him holding forth with probably lots of “Verily verilies” and Mary sitting at his feet listening raptly, taking in every word and, for all we know, making notes. Clergy like him you didn’t find every day, either.

But where was Martha? Martha, it seems, was out in the kitchen busily getting a lunch. She probably had some Newfoundland blood in her. No one ever entered a Newfoundlander’s house, not even a Jehovah’s Witness, without being given a cup of tea and the offer to open up a bottle of moose.

It’s unlikely Martha was opening up moose to serve cold with pickles and homemade bread. But she was getting something ready for her guest and, presumably, her sister.

There was nothing Newfoundland­er about Jesus. He was not happy at all. In fact, he chastised her something fierce.

“What are you doing out there? Why aren’t you in here like your sister, sitting at my feet and trying to learn something?” (Not the exact words.)

OH believes Mary should have defended her sister with something like, “Sure, but you’ll sip the tea and nibble on the biscuits all right!” Or better still, gotten up and given her a hand. OH further believes that had Jesus not gotten something to eat, he would not have been a happy camper.

“Martha could have read Mary’s notes,” OH says, “or waited until the whole thing came out in book form.”

OH is what’s known as an independent thinker. That means her thought processes are often different from yours and mine. Especially mine.

As another example, consider her question to me the other night. Before bed. Long before bed.

“How come the glass being half full is supposed to be so much better than half-empty?”

Took me only a second to respond to that one, although I knew my breath was being wasted big-time.

“Well, if I see the glass as being half full, that means I’m being optimistic. I don’t see the glass in terms of half of it being empty. If I did, that would mean I had a negative perspective.”

“Don’t see it,” she said.

OH is about as far from stupid as I am from being adolescent. If she can’t see it, there’s something I and everyone else in creation who uses that term are missing as well.

“Even if you say the glass is half full,” she went on, “that means the other half of that same glass is empty. So why is saying the glass is half full any more positive?”

Number One Son and I looked at each other, each of us daring the other to take up the cudgels on behalf of the positive persons of the world. He’s braver than I am.

“You see, Mom,” he began, “seeing the glass being half full gives me a positive perspective on things.”

“That’s what your father just said. The fact is, if one half is full the other half is empty and if one half is empty the other half is full. So what one has to do with positive or negative or anything else is beyond me. Personally, I think it’s a misleading statement.”

Son relapsed into silence.

One more example before I, too, give up.

“Why is it better,” she asked immediately after the glass discussion — she was on a roll now — “to be a sheep than a goat?”

I perked up on this one. As a former student minister and regular churchgoer, this was in my area. I knew all about sheep and goats.

“Because,” said I, with absolute conviction, “God said he would put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Also, Jesus didn’t go around with little goats in his arms.”

“I know that,” she said, “but it seems to me that sheep are really stupid animals. They go wherever they’re led and then run away at the slightest sound. I’d much rather be a goat. They’re not stupid and they’re afraid of nothing. If I had to have someone watching my back, I’d rather it be a goat any day. Besides, didn’t goat’s milk save your uncle’s life when he was a child?”

I had to admit that it did, but I had another thought.

“I bet you’ve never heard tell of a scapesheep.”

“No, but that’s because sheep are too stupid to be responsible for anything, good or bad.”

I played my last card.

“At least you can eat sheep. I know, you can eat goats, too, but they’re pretty dry and stringy.”

“Great!” she said. “On the day of judgment when God asks the sheep what they were good for, you know what they’ll say? ‘Mutton.’ And if he’s either bit deaf, you know what that will sound like to God, and then where are they?”

“There’s wool,” I said defensively, but since I can’t wear that next to my skin, I said it softly.

It was time to cease and desist.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Springdale

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Recent comments

  • aubrey smith
    April 14, 2011 - 07:25

    Ed ,boy,I pity you .Now on the other hand ,my OH is very intelligent and has absolutely no time for politics or any such frills but is home- centered and grandmother -fixated .She just lets me do my thing and when I pen a satiric masterpiece , and ask her what she thinks "she says that 's nice dear " .You know as the days pass ,I am studying her approach to life more and more with a view towards conversion .Good article by the way .Think mutton of it .