A Chicken or Egg Question

The question above has nothing to do with cooking.  Rather, it has to do with the ongoing debate over the role of government vs. the role of the family, churches, charities, and other voluntary private organizations in assisting vulnerable persons such as the poor, children, the handicapped and the elderly.

Generally speaking, liberals argue that government should take the lead in helping such people because private charities and families cannot be counted upon to have the resources to do so. Conservatives, however, counter that an ever-expanding “nanny state” interferes with the ability of the private sector to fill such needs, and if government got out of the way, private individuals and charities would be better able to meet these needs.

So which came first — the “chicken” of family and societal disintegration or the “egg” of big government? Or is it the other way around — is big government the chicken that laid the egg of societal collapse?

I believe both phenomena perpetuate and feed off one another to an extent, but ultimately, I assert that societal disintegration came first and big government followed.

Many conservatives speak with nostalgia of the pre-Great Society era when people believed in self-reliance, “took care of their own” and didn’t rely on government handouts. The implication is that if expensive social programs (e.g. food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized child care) were discontinued, people would quickly revert to the old ethic and start taking care of themselves and their families again.

While I am no fan of an intrusive nanny state, I have to say that simply shutting off the government spigot won’t necessarily yield the results these people expect, at least not in the short term. There are several factors that have drastically changed the playing field in the last 50 years or so, which will make any attempt to shrink the size of government (necessary though it may be) more complex and more painful than a lot of people realize. Some of those factors (listed in no particular order) are:

1. Divorce and single parenthood. These are the two biggest factors contributing to poverty among women and children, and the resultant demand for cash assistance (welfare/TANF), food assistance, and subsidized child care and preschools. A parent raising one or more children alone without the assistance of a spouse may not have anywhere else to turn, except to the government, for help unless they are blessed with an extended family living nearby or with friends and neighbors they can trust to watch their children or supply other needs when necessary.

Some will argue that the creation of the welfare state exacerbated these problems by making it easier for women to dispense with marriage as a precondition for parenthood. That may be, but let’s not forget the effect of the sexual revolution which was already underway before the Great Society/welfare state began to gather steam. (Certain aspects of the sexual revolution, such as movements to promote easier divorce and greater access to contraception, date back to at least the 1920s.) In this case I believe the sexual revolution was the “chicken” and the welfare state just one of the many bad “eggs” that it produced.

2. Spouses both working outside the home simultaneously. Originally I was going to say “women working outside the home,” but then I realized it goes deeper than that.

Obviously the decline in stay-at-home wives/mothers means more reliance on outside child care, as well as more reliance on adult day care, nursing homes, and other means to care for elderly or disabled relatives. It also means fewer people around in most residential neighborhoods during the day — and particularly during the after-school hours of 3 to 6 p.m. — to monitor what children and teens are doing and with whom they are doing it. This leads to more demand for publicly subsidized youth programs, extended school days and school years, and for more law enforcement aimed at curbing youth crime and drug use.

But it isn’t just women that aren’t around to watch the kids anymore. Men who in past generations might have run their own neighborhood businesses (groceries, taverns, clothing/shoe stores, etc.) with their wives, and allowed their children to participate in maintaining and running those businesses, instead drive or take the train to distant workplaces. This also contributes to the problems mentioned above.

3. Loss of agricultural and manufacturing jobs. In the early to mid 20th-century these jobs were a large part of the economy, and they were available in most communities of any size. Just about any able-bodied man or woman who could read and write (and even many who couldn’t) could find some kind of job on a farm, or in a factory, mine, or store or other facility in their area. The decline of these industries meant 1) people were more frequently forced to move away from their hometowns and families of origin to find work that paid a living wage, and 2)  people were more often required to seek education beyond high school in order to become or remain employable.

Moving away from home, or having to move frequently, means not having extended family or trusted neighbors around to help you out in a crisis, or to watch your kids while you work. More demand for postsecondary education means… you guessed it… more demand for state-funded schools and more reliance on government grants, loans and financial aid to pay for it.

4. Decline in religious vocations and religious practice. One of the unfortunate side effects of the decline in Catholic Religious vocations in recent decades is that it gutted an important social “safety net” for entire communities, not just for Catholics. Hospitals, schools, children’s homes, homes for the elderly, soup kitchens and many other programs were run by clergy or by nuns or monks/friars living under vows of poverty. When vocations began to decline, these institutions had to either close or replace their Religious staff with lay persons who had to be paid a living wage and be provided with health insurance and other benefits. The cost of attempting to operate with lay staff only forced more institutions to close and others to merge, dissolve or consolidate with secular entities. A similar process occurred with some Protestant organizations and institutions such as Lutheran Social Services, the YMCA and YWCA, etc.

Meanwhile, the post-Vatican II decline in the number of practicing lay Catholics cut into organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Holy Name and Altar and Rosary societies, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, Catholic Youth Organizations, and others that relied upon volunteers. The same thing happened also to Protestant churches’ ladies’ aid societies and other volunteer groups. Who took up the slack they left behind? You know the answer to that by now.

5. More persons with disabilities living longer. Medical advances have enabled many children born prematurely or with health issues such as heart defects, who would have died had they been born 50 or more years ago, to survive. Many thrive and live healthy and normal lives, but others live with significant disabilities throughout life such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, etc. Also, adults are more likely to survive injuries or diseases that in their grandparents’ time would have killed them.

In the past, families were usually advised to place handicapped children in institutions (some state-operated, others private) or to send them away to special schools. Now, they more often stay at home and attend regular public schools. While I regard this as a good thing, it does of course mean that families who can’t afford to privately pay for the services disabled children or adults need will instead seek government-funded assistance. It also means public schools must seek more funding for special education services, to insure the “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” that federal law guarantees to children with disabilities.

These are just some of the factors that may make returning to the “good old days” of self- and family reliance not as easy or simple as some would like to think.

I’m guessing that, like me, most people who frequent this blog would like to see the balance of government vs. private largesse shift back in the direction of the private sector, though we may disagree on how far the shift should go and how quickly. But before such a shift is undertaken, we have to consider whether the private “safety net” we are proposing to restore has been weakened, and what can be done to strengthen it, lest more vulnerable people simply fall through those holes as well.

What are your thoughts on how to address this issue? Can you think of any other factors I might have overlooked that caused or accelerated the shift toward government dependency?

19 Responses to A Chicken or Egg Question

  • Gov welfare policies do not work.

    They spent over $1 trillion in 1964 dollars on the Great Society and the number of poverty-stricken was the same after all that blown tax money. We the people have $13,000,000,000,000.00 in federal debt and nothing to show for it. Obama added $3 trillion in debt in less than two years and what do we have to show for it? Our children and grandchildren will suffer for it.

    1. Absolutely correct. Add to divorce, fornication and promiscuity generating children among people who can’t support themselves in the first place. Many of the poor (and probably 99% of liberals) are avid practitioners of the at least three or four of the seven deadly sins. CA food stamps/welfares checks routinely cashed in Las Vegas.

    2. In my family, all my wife’s gross salary pays taxes; net doesn’t come close to our variious tax bills.

    3. True.

    4. Too true!

    5. Obamacare will end that problem.

    ” . . . liberals argue that government should take the lead . . . ” because they must have expanding dependencies (the indigent, government employees, public employee unions, big labor unions, etc.) voting to keep in power.

  • “Add to divorce, fornication and promiscuity generating children among people who can’t support themselves in the first place.”

    That would be included under “single parenthood.”

    “CA food stamps/welfare checks routinely cashed in Las Vegas”

    Actually, that sounds like an urban legend to me.

  • Excellent post, Elaine.

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about education lately. The whole situation seems loony to me. Parents work themselves to the bone and spend nights tossing and turning worrying about college tuition bills, when the truth of the matter is that many kids who would be happy and useful being carpenters or plumbers or chefs end up miserably occupying a cubicle in, say,an HR Department. The present-day belief that a college education is a “right” everyone is entitled to has only led to the further debasing of the worth of a bachelor’s degree. Virtually every young college student I know believes he or she will have to go on to a post-grad school to land a really good job, because bachelor’s degrees are – well, I would say a dime a dozen, but with the tuition at private colleges running about $30,000 a year these days, and even state schools becoming increasingly expensive, it’s not dimes we’re talking about here.

    Bringing back societal respect for the dignity and worth of the trades and manual labor would help. I know middle class parents who would be very disappointed, even ashamed, if their child chose to be say, a plumber, rather than an IT specialist, but hey, you can’t outsource a plumber’s job to India, can you? Yet Obama talks of ensuring that even more young people go to college. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    (The whole higher education bubble is, I think, one reason – among many – why even Catholic couples end up using the Pill, condoms, etc. Putting even one child through college can be ruinously expensive these days. And, unfortunately, the days of working your way through college are long gone.)

  • “Bringing back societal respect for the dignity and worth of the trades and manual labor would help”

    True, but bear in mind that many of these trades are heavily unionized, which has its advantages but also distinct disadvantages.

    “Unfortunately the days of working your way through college are long gone”

    If you insist upon completing a full bachelor’s degree in 4 years or less of full-time attendance while living on campus, yes, it will be difficult if not impossible to earn your own way completely. But if you live at home while attending a community/junior college for the first 2-3 years, or take classes part time, or do a stint in the military first and take advantage of GI Bill benefits, it can be done.

    The notion that putting a child through college means sending them away from home and paying for 4 years of tuition, books, supplies, room and board completely on the parental dime, or having the child literally mortgage their future with student loan debt for decades to come, isn’t necessarily true.

  • I have to believe that the demise or at least the curtailment of statism would naturally lead to a renaissance of private initiative.

    The problem is that society would inevitably pass through a painful phase of readjustment, having been dependent for so long upon public largess.

    Individualism has made it such that everyone is expected to make their own way. People often think I now support individualism because I oppose statism, but the opposite is true; only voluntary collectivism can replace statism, which is really forced individualism.

    Because we are not unified or in communion in any meaningful sense through the state. The Leviathan is an artificial creation, a machine with cogs and gears, not an organic development that passes through trial and error, shedding what fails and retaining what works. The Leviathan is an aggregate of individuals who gravitate towards it as iron shavings to a magnet. If the magnet loses its pull, the individual shavings collapse in a disorganized heap.

    But it is not a part of our natural condition to remain in such a way. We have a social instinct, which the Leviathan smothers but cannot kill. The first generation after Leviathan’s collapse may suffer greatly, but subsequent generations would reform themselves on natural principles and reason (both of which are God-given, woven into the fabric of our being). This is the significance of Locke, and why I stridently reject the notion that he was a “Hobbesian.”

    Leviathan is ultimate the product of philosophers and the home of bureaucrats. Nature is the home of the rest of the human race, and organic civilization is its product.

    Philosophers in their own minds soar above the rest of humanity, while bureaucrats are terrified of it. Regular human beings simply organize spontaneously on rational principles. MJAndrew and I had quite a debate on all this, and I’ll say there that from Aquinas to Locke there a gradual need developed to redefine what was evident and rational from nature as a positive, God-granted right that needed to be defended against the likes of Hobbes or Louis XIV. And that need is still with us today, which is why I think Locke’s argument still matters, for Catholics and for everyone. And that in turn is the significance of Rerum Novarum.

    I’ll be putting that in more succinct form for an upcoming Inside Catholic article very soon. The bottom line is that we must still defend ourselves against Leviathan, and as Catholics we can actually do this better with natural rights arguments than we can with most “traditional” arguments, though we ultimately need both since we see how arguments from rights can be savagely abused.

  • Right on the money, Elaine.

    Except for #3 ( the NZ economy is still dependant on our agricultural economy) our system has become “cradle to grave” dependency. It was out hope that with the election of the present National govt. back in 2008 that much of the socialisation that has happened under successive ‘socialist’ style govts over the past few decades would have been eleimated.
    However, much to many of us on the right-of-centre political leaning, our present masters seem to have – once the snout was in the trough – have continued along the same hand-out-mentality path.

    The next hope is for the upcoming election next year for them to consolidate their position and then get rid of the ‘dependency syndrome’.

    Am I holding my breath? :-(

  • “While I am no fan of an intrusive nanny state, I have to say that simply shutting off the government spigot won’t necessarily yield the results these people expect, at least not in the short term.+”

    Though that is a strawman. I don’t believe there are many conservatives who argue about eliminating govt. programs completely. I believe there are many who are arguing enough is enough and that further expansion of our, very generous, current welfare system is harmful to economic and social conditions and thus to the common good.

  • Another question to ask is, which came first? the feminist movement of the ’60s and ’70s or the economy requiring a two-income household?

    And how about this? the feminist movement or the obesity epidemic, especially among children?

    And how about this one? the feminist movement or the break-up of the family unit?

    And–, the feminist movement or the sexual revolution, with the resulting 50 million abortions?

    And–, the feminist movement, or the reliance of women on government handouts and programs such as daycare?

    How about–, the feminist movement or the disintegration of the young male psyche who was despised because he wasn’t a girl?

    Or, the feminist movement, or the fact that more men are losing their jobs today than women?

    Nobody in the media dares to approach any of these questions. They would rather blame MacDonald’s for their fat kids instead of the woman who is too tired at the end of the day to prepare a meal with real food. My heavens! most young women today don’t even know what real food is, let alone how to make a meal of it.

  • Louise, all that may be true, but notice that my #2 point is not ONLY about working women.

    BOTH men and women work farther away from home for more hours than they used to, leading to more reliance on fast food, at the same time they also spend more hours sitting down at computers, in cars and at home. Result: obesity.

    Another big reason kids are fat: they don’t play outdoors as much as they used to… partly because they may prefer to watch video games or play on the computer, it’s true, but also because fear of crime and lack of acquaintance with neighbors (see #3) prompt parents to keep their kids indoors more.

  • Another point: I don’t think the sexual revolution was entirely a female invention. Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner did just as much or more to promote it as, say, Gloria Steinem or Helen Gurley Brown. Go even farther back and you have figures such as Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw promoting what was then called “free love.” And Margaret Sanger didn’t act entirely alone when it came to promoting Planned Parenthood — she had a lot of help from the (predominantly male) eugenics movement.

  • “I don’t think the sexual revolution was entirely a female invention.”

    You can put a few exclamation points after that Elaine! The sexual revolution has been a dream come true for predatory males, and women, kids and decent men have been the victims.

  • Great article, Elaine.

    Two other things that strike me are that:

    – A rapidly industrializing society offered people in a more traditional society (whether that be 1700s England or late 20th century India) the chance to make far more money, but only if they moved away from family and village support structures. This probably helped create the vacuum that statism fills.

    – I don’t think we really would have got to this spot if it weren’t for the fact that people often prefer, on a pragmatic basis, relying on government to relying on family, for the simple reason that relying on government is more sure: It’s less likely to go bankrupt (though as Greece has seen, when the finances go south everyone is in trouble) and you don’t have to go through the work of maintaining a relationship with it the way you do with crotchety relations who nonetheless might have the money to help if you get into trouble some day.

  • Elaine, thank you for your response. Did you come of age in the ’60s or ’70s? –or later? If so, you did not experience the difference in women’s lives first hand after Steinem, Kinsey, and the woman (forget her name) who pretended to be a frustrated, unfulfilled haus frau, but who, it turns out, was an active member of the Communist party, seeking what we called “the industrialization of women.” The plan to separate women from their children, their husbands, and their homes, and to incorporate them into the workforce. it was a difference as between night and day. I am 77. I lived through it all as an adult with the experience of a different kind of life.. It was not pleasant and too long to describe, but I saw many younger women’s lives torn apart and their families as well by buying into the feminist lie. Yes, it goes back to the ’20s and before, but they really had no active role in the ’60s, except perhaps in the minds of the instigators.
    There was a commercial on TV about five years ago that showed a group of women, in their 40s, dancing in the sunshine, saying, “What a wonderful age this is.”. I used to think, “How nice for you. Do you know that you made your parents’ lives pure hell when they were your age? It was not a wonderful age for them. You all but destroyed them.”

    When you reach adulthood living in a war zone, you really can’t appreciate the devastation that was wrought on what it was before.

  • I used to think, “How nice for you. Do you know that you made your parents’ lives pure hell when they were your age? It was not a wonderful age for them. You all but destroyed them.”

    When you reach adulthood living in a war zone, you really can’t appreciate the devastation that was wrought on what it was before.

    God bless you Louise and thank you for articulating that.

  • “Did you come of age in the ’60s or ’70s or later”

    I was born in 1964; you do the math.

    “I saw many younger women’s lives torn apart… by buying into the feminist lie”

    Could you be more specific about what parts of feminism you consider to be a “lie”? A lot of different things, both good and bad, get lumped under the heading of feminism and a blanket condemnation of feminism tends to come off as a condemnation of those aspects which nearly everyone, including devout, traditional, pro-life and family Catholics, would consider good.

    In my opinion, the bad parts of feminism were:

    the promotion of abortion and sexual freedom/promiscuity (made possible, of course, by contraception);

    a hostile attitude toward men in general and toward male authority figures in particular;

    the notion that children do not need both a mother and a father and that those roles are interchangeable at will;

    the idea that all differences between men and women are purely cultural and can be changed with enough social conditioning;

    the loss of respect for stay at home wives and mothers (who as I pointed out above, often cared for older or disabled relatives as well as children); and

    the idea that women could “have it all” in the sense of being able to devote themselves entirely to career advancement without consideration for its effect on their family lives. (Of course men also need to consider this too — “workaholic” men who are never there for their wives or children have a detrimental effect on family life also.)

    Now, what were the “good” parts of feminism, if feminism is even the right word to describe it? I would say they were:

    the promotion of equal pay for equal work and of women’s right to enter any profession or occupation for which they are qualified;

    the belief that education for women should be taken as seriously as that of men;

    eliminating the attitude that women did not need education or career training because they could just rely on their future husbands to take care of them (this attitude did still exist even in my parent’s and grandparent’s generation, even though women can always lose even the most devoted husbands and fathers to death or disability, and he could always lose his job, requiring her to step in as breadwinner);

    the end of legal principles and employment practices that treated women, especially married women, as if they were perpetual minors; and

    getting rid of the presumption that women were at fault when they suffered domestic violence, rape or sexual abuse. Of course, some feminists go overboard in the other direction nowadays and act as if all men are potential rapists, or as if ONLY men are ever violent or abusive. Women can commit these crimes too. However, it was not that long ago when women who were raped or abused by male partners or relatives were routinely treated by the police and courts as if they must be lying or must have “asked for it. ”

    So, not all social changes affecting the role of women in the post-World War II era have been bad or destructive of family life. Nor was there necessarily some kind of overarching “plan” or plot to destroy marriage and the family involved. However, many social movements and changes that start out good or have good aspects can end up having unintended and ultimately destructive consequences. The trick is to weed out the good from the bad.

  • Dear Elaine,
    Sorry I didn’t answer you last night. I was exhausted after an afternoon of clearing the fence line of 10-foot wild roses and briars and 6-foot golden rod, and lopping dozens of saplings and brush. Not as young as I used to be.
    The lie of feminism. You said it yourself: it’s the lie that women can have it all; that women are entitled to it all and deserve it all; that they can have it all with no consequences to anyone, least of all themselves; that they are and always have been victims of male oppression; that, as soon as they cast off the chains of male oppression, they will live happy, fulfilled, satisfied lives (“we have nothing to lose but our chains”), etc. etc. etc. Women are the oppressed. Patriarchy is the oppressive system, and it must be thrown off. Sounds like a political philosophy to me. (BTW, Bella Abzug was the name I had forgotten–a real sweetheart.)

    As an economic policy, consider this. My husband’s first salary as a chemist was $500/month, $6,000/year. Our small family could could live without effort on that salary. (As a Lieutenant, J.G., before discharge, it was just short of that.) I don’t remember the tax structure, but, for our purposes, let’s say, 10%, we paid $600 in federal income tax. Now, if I could have been persuaded to go to work for, say, $400/month or $4800/year, our combined income would be $10,800, and our taxes, now in a higher income bracket of say, 13%, would be $1,404. ($6000 + $4800 x .13) That’s more than double the taxes due on my husband’s single income And then there is the increased revenue from gasoline taxes (two cars needed now), and probably smaller families (fewer child tax deductions and fewer children to educate, with the additional bonus of having children for longer hours to indoctrinate), less volunteerism justifying federal programs to fill the gap in addition to redistribution of wealth. You don’t think that leftist mouthes were salivating over this? Think of all the federal programs that could be maintained, and, after all, we didn’t NEED that much, and others certainly deserved it more. Sounds like a political philosophy to me and a good basis on which to build a political structure. I think that there was a plan.

    The fact that children were made to bear the brunt of this revolution by having to become the parent and the emotional support of the now-victimized mother, by being forced, as small children, to live according to an adult schedule–out of bed at 6 am (bad night? no sleep? too bad, mother’s got to go to work. See you at 6-pm–that is is of little concern to anyone, except perhaps the mother with a tender conscience.

    Education as “the fall back” insurance? How helpful is a 20-year old degree in anthropology in getting back in the workforce at an advanced level? A late career is more likely to be behind the counter or the cash register. If you want to advance in a career, you’d better stick with it after graduating. BTW, a stack of pay stubs is pretty cold comfort at the end of one’s life, and the mother who abandoned her children to day care, will probably be abandoned to a nursing home in her old age when she can no longer play golf with her friends in the retirement home.

    Lower income? As an employer why should I pay a woman as much as I pay a man if, after a year’s training, she is likely to decide that her biological clock is winding down and she wants to quit her job and raise a family, or she falls asleep in a department meeting (I”ve seen it happen) because she was up all night with a feverish child, or she takes maternity leave and leaves her work burden to fall on all of the single women in the department, whose work load is already overburdened because the economy is bad and the company isn’t hiring.

    And the boys. (Another big lie: that boys got all the recognition in class and girls were ignored. I don’t know how that got past the giggle test. Girls were the favored sex in every class I was in in grade or high school). The boys really suffered, especially during adolescence, when they are already feeling the ground shift under their feet, they are told to go to the back of the bus and shut up. It was the “girls’ turn.” I had a son who suffered that indignity (born in 1971, BTW. His nearest sibling was born in 1961). These days, every professional program in college enrolls more women than me. When I began a career in publishing after attending college in my 50s, every male acquisitions editor was replaced with a female when he left the company. Every Catholic church that allowed girls at the altar, now have almost no boys. (One parish in our vicinity has 27 extraordinary ministers on a Sunday. About 4 of them are men.)

    There is lots more to say, but that’s enough for now, except to say that the worst lie of all is the one that says that this life can be perfect if I can just manipulate and control all the people and circumstances in my life. It’s not perfect. Never was; never will be. Some sacrifices are worth it.

  • When I speak of women’s education being taken less serioiusly in the past, I am thinking primarily of higher education — the notion that women didn’t “need” or had no use for education beyond high school.

    In grade and high school, yes, girls are and always have been “favored” in the sense that teachers tend to like them better and because they are better able to sit through classes and obey the rules than most boys can. Young boys, of course, would rather be up and about doing something other than sitting at a desk, and tend to have shorter attention spans. As a result, they are far more likely to be labeled as being “hyperactive” or having ADD or some variation thereof than girls are. (Yet another manifestation of the feminist notion that all sex differences are purely cultural and can be programmed out of a child if you try hard enough)

    Although I never got to experience it myself (I attended a Catholic high school that had been all-boys but had gone co-ed a few years earlier) I personally believe single-sex education at the junior high and high school level would be a great thing — it would enable boys to learn to be men and girls to learn to be women in an environment where they don’t have to worry about how they are going to look in front of the opposite sex, PLUS they would have teachers who don’t have to deal with both sexes at once also. Now before anyone asks “But how are they going to learn how to get along with the opposite sex,” well, they have all their off hours, weekends, and summer vacations to do that, right?

    The decline of single-sex education is, I agree, one of the saddest casualties of the feminist movement.

    As for the preponderance of women among extraordinary ministers and the like… well, women are and always have tended to be more “churchy” and religiously observant than men in our culture, and in past generations (like my father’s and grandfather’s, and if you are Catholic, I am sure you remember this also) usually husbands were more likely to lapse from the faith and leave their wives and kids to go to Mass by themselves every Sunday, than the other way around. This was the case long before Vatican II.

    That, I think, is more a result of men abdicating THEIR responsibility to show spiritual leadership and leaving it to women to fill the void, than of women consciously attempting to take over.

    C.S. Lewis wrote that the “crown” of headship than the husband wears as head of the home is a “crown of thorns” that, too often, he shoves off on his wife and forces HER to carry, rather than grasping too eagerly for it himself. But, I digress. That could be a topic for another day.

  • Thanks, Elaine. Re: the church with the 27 E.M.s a week, 4 of them men (BTW, the bulletin of that parish reports a collection of only 250 envelopes or so each week. We left that parish after a couple of years.) Our present parish has only altar boys, a group of about 40 boys and young men–no girls allowed, the Faith is taught uncompromisingly and without apology, and, coincidentally, I have been observing of late the number of men in the congregation. Except for the widows and young unmarried women (the young, unmarried men are serving at the altar), just about every family on a Sunday comes equipped with a husband/father, and there are a number of widowers also. It’s true that, in many instances, women are only filling a leadership void in the family, but, do you know, it took a long for my husband to find out that I didn’t buy the woman’s lib. stuff, and, thinking that I did, he backed off his leadership so that I wouldn’t feel “oppressed.” Men read the newspapers and watch TV, too.

    My husband gave me a birthday card once with the message: “Happy Birthday from the one who rules the roost to the one who rules the rooster.” I loved it.

    There has never been “man’s work” and woman’s work” in our home. I have always shoveled as much snow as he in the winter–at least timewise, my shovelfuls were a little smaller. He dries the dishes, and he has done the cooking since I went to work and he was working from the home. I drive the John Deere, mowing all the pastures, even the long, steep front hill; he uses the electric mower to get where the tractor can’t go. I clean house and do laundry. He helps hang clothes on the line if he’s handy. He fixes plumbing and electrical connections. He plasters, I sand, paint, and varnish. He puts up wall paper. I trim sheep’s hooves while he keeps the sheep amused or sometimes holds them still on their backs in his lap on the ground. He saws downed trees and branches. I pack up the brush in the wagon and drive it to the brush pile. We both throw it up and over. I pick up the fork to get the olives out of the jar. He picks up the spoon. He has taught me, by example, to be kind; I have taught him that a huge job can be tackled one step at a time, that he doesn’t need to be overwhelmed by any job, no matter how large. He keeps me grounded; I help him fly a little. We cut each other a lot of slack because both of our physical stamina and our memories are slowing down. It was his impetus to convert to the Catholic Church. I followed along. Am I blessed, or what?

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