Being Of Use

Blog 2231 – 11.27.2021

Being Of Use

Many people who have worked long and hard all their lives and look forward to retirement do not last very long after retirement. They find it was not the job so much as the feeling of being of use that kept them going and without that sense of purpose or usefulness they soon despair of life and slip away.

Another of my favorite movies that I have mentioned more than once in my blogs is Cider House Rules from the best selling book by John Irving. In the story the orphan Homer is taught to be of use by Doctor Larch, who runs the orphanage and give all the pregnant women who come to him the choice of terminating their pregnancy or leaving the baby at the orphanage. The story takes place long before women had any legal choice.

For some time a very proactive, pro-life, minority in this country have wanted to turn back the clock on legal abortion and even birth control. For many years in my youth and into my mid-forties I was a member of a narrow fundamentalist church whose top political goal was overturning Row V. Wade. But when I took off those blinders I saw things quite differently. Those people, and I sadly was once one of them, do not really love children, or women, as much as they have been indoctrinated to believe for all their talk of God that this is a man’s world and that men should make all the decisions, one of the big ones being that women’s sole purpose in life is to have babies whether they want to or not.

Doctor Larch allows the women who come to him choose to have their babies and leave them at the orphanage where he knows from long years of first hand knowledge that the odds are they will never be adopted or have few if any real prospects of a happy life. He and the two nurses who worked with him at St. Clouds orphanage in Maine try their best to love and to care for the unwanted children and to teach them to be of use.

Homer runs away from his responsibilities at the orphanage. Doctor Larch has trained him to be a doctor, and though he knows how to he refused to perform abortions, choosing rather to only deliver babies.

After one young woman arrives at St. Cloud’s bleeding from a botched back-alley abortion and dies on the operating table, Doctor Larch castigates Homer for his unwillingness to give these desperate young women a choice. Soon after Homer leaves and then ends up picking apples for two seasons before realizing that his hands can be of better use back at the orphanage doing the work for which he was trained. He replaces the deceased Doctor Larch.

Many young women even today become pregnant through rape and incest and have no choice. There is seldom a long line of people waiting to adopt these unwanted children. I, who am fortunate to have known a mother’s love, have often remarked, “What little chance would any child have in this life whose own mother did not even want them.” Many children adopted and raised by loving people often are crushed to learn they were given up for adoption and are never able to deal with that rejection.

Women are not brood mares, but free as men to decide when and if they want to have children. I have little patience with any group intent on turning back the clock to some mythical golden age of unreason. Those days are gone with the wind for good reason and good riddance. General Electric (GE) television and radio commercials used to say, “GE, Where Progress Is Our Most Important Product.” Products and people should be of use. Heads should be used for more than hat racks. Think people, do not let me or anyone, especially some fat old white entitled men do your thinking for you. To paraphrase Einar Gilkyson’s words to his granddaughter in An Unfinished Life after she was rude to a dinner guest:

Here is the full un-edited quote:

And now my paraphrase of the last line:

There’s no excuse for that ‘useless’ bullshit.” (Tell us what you really think, Crazy Dave.)

Even some bullshit serves a purpose, but not that nonsense. I think we should all be of use, but also that we all have a choice. To rob those who have little or no choice is to me the greater sin.

Your friend and fellow traveler,

David White

Bless The Beasts And The Children

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