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The chance you had – more from Wendell Berry


A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on Jul 15, 2016 at 2:10am PDT

I am currently reading Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry, which is a beautiful novel. There is so much worthy material in it, but I liked this quote. I have to admit, that my recent surgery could lead me to ask all sorts of questions and take a good many looks sideways at my life in comparison to a large proportion of the women in my church (many of whom have recently been, or soon will go, to hospital and come home with a baby), but you can’t, not truly and not with any benefit, and I am very thankful for how the recent events turned out for me, given that they had to and did happen … ‘Those are the right instructions.’

… After they were gone, I was mourning over them to Nathan. I said, “I just wanted them to have a better chance than I had”.

Nathan said, “Don’t complain about the chance you had”, in the same way exactly that he used to tell the boys, “Don’t cuss the weather”. Sometimes you can say dreadful things without knowing it. Nathan understood this better than I did.

Like several of his one-sentence conversations, this one stuck in my mind and finally changed it. The change came to late, maybe, but it turned my mind inside out like a sock.

Was I sorry that I had known my parents and Grandmam and Ora Finley and the Catletts and the Feltners, and that I had married Virgil and come to live in Port William, and that I had lived on after Virgil’s death to marry Nathan and come to our place to raise our family and live among the Coulters and the rest of our membership?

Well, that was the chance I had.

And so Nathan required me to think a thought that has stayed with me a long time and has traveled a long way. It passed through everything I know and changed it all. The chance you had is the life you’ve got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people’s lives, even about your children being gone, but you mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.

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