Dear Ann and Girls of Society of Ruth:
You girls want to know what it is like to be "out"—that magic word which represents the day when all your dreams come true and you live happily ever—almost. It's not quite perfect, girls, but it is a big milestone passed, and in our case anyway, it has been the best time of our life.
I have so much to say, I don't know where to begin. .
Portland, Maine, is a lovely city, and though Dwight and I are country lovers, we don't mind living in Portland at all. We have the big-city conveniences without the feeling of being in a big city. We live right on Back Cove at the end of Baxter Boulevard. Baxter Boulevard follows the edge of the Bay and is kept up like a park and is a bird sanctuary. Dwight drives this way to school every day and sees herring gulls, black ducks, great black-backed gulls, merganser, buffleheads, yellow legs, et cetera. After leaving the boulevard he has about four blocks of city traffic before he enters Deering Oaks Park in which are swans, and all kinds of wild and domesticated ducks and geese. It is only one block from the park to the school. You see why he likes going to school!
We live in a conference-owned house, which to us is a mansion. We have the second floor, which in this case is nicer because we can see over the traffic, which runs by our door, and get a lovely view of the calm Bay. All of the living part of the house looks over the Bay and is very sunny and cheerful. We have five rooms plus a finished-off attic to use as a guest room. So here is a standing invitation to any of you to drop in any time. We wondered how we could
possibly furnish so many rooms, but here is the wonderful part! As soon as the church members found out what we needed, everything was given to us. Some of the things were practically useless, others needed repairing, while some things are so nice they could be new. By the time I get slipcovers and drapes made I think we will have a lovely home. The people in the church have been wonderful all along. Just a few days before school started they surprised us with a pantry shower. Believe me, that surely helped us out during those first weeks when we didn't have any money for food. The folks that have gardens are always bringing some of their produce to us. We have been promised our winter's supply of potatoes, so we won't starve anyway. Last Saturday night they had a baby shower for me so I'm all set up for the baby too.
Dwight loves his work. He has eleven students in the 9th and 10th grades, so he teaches six subjects. They really keep him busy. I thought it was bad when he was going to college, but believe me it is worse now! He is always studying! And if he does get through early, he will say, "Let's go and visit some parents tonight." It is frustrating to have him so wrapped up in his work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Oh, I feel abused at times, but girls, what a thrill it is to have your husband look up from his books and say, "Oh, honey, I just love teaching." I don't mind taking the back seat when I see the good he is doing; I just want to help in any way I can, and that, by the way, might be anything from thinking of a way to make intransitive verbs interesting to baking doughnuts for the Halloween benefit party.
"But," you're probably thinking, "you must have had some discouragements—money troubles or something."
Sure, we've had lots of discouragementsmoney was probably the worst. I'll admit I even wept a few tears when we got our first check. We had to get an advance for the first two weeks, so when the check came it was only $78. Our rent was $70, tithe $20. All our utilities to pay and a month to live before the next check. Even with the rent subsidy check it didn't begin to pay our obligations. Besides, we wanted to pay second tithe, but we just couldn't see how when we hardly had enough to pay first tithe. Well, we finally decided to go ahead in faith and paid tithe and second tithe first.
The next day after that decision we were informed the school board had voted a pay raise for all three teachers. Ours amounted to $6 a week. A few days after that we were informed that the conference had voted to give us quite a substantial amount on our school bill. Well, since then we've just felt that the Lord was on our side and money hasn't bothered us. We were flat broke before the next check came, of course, but unexpected money did come just in time to tide us over.
My, this has turned out to be quite a lengthy letter. Now I will try to summarize all my advice to you girls. I think the one word attitude is the real secret of success. We are really happy for the opportunity we have to work for the Lord and we feel it a privilege. I don't think that anyone who feels the "sacrifice" he is making is going to be happy in service. As far as we are concerned there is no sacrifice. We are paid in joys, not money. Money can't buy satisfaction. I think it is important, too, to be thrilled with the particular job you have. I suppose if you had hoped for an internship but got a teacher-pastor job, it would be hard to be enthusiastic about teaching. But remember, if you can't, you won't be happy. So do rearrange your thinking so that you can enjoy your work.
Northern New England Conference is certainly not a wealthy conference, but we don't have one complaint about the way we have been treated. No doubt if we had looked for some we could have found them, but we are happier in not finding them.
It is hard, sometimes, not to look at the minister and/or conference officials and say, "Look at his car," or "Look at the house he lives in." But these are the very things that will hurt You more than anything else. Incidentally, this particular attitude is one that you may begin to work on right now in school. If you can overcome it now, so much the better for you.
I hope this will be a help to you. I don't know all the answers and probably never will. We all need each other's prayers, so don't forget us up here in Portland. I pray the Lord will be with you who are still preparing to enter His service, that we together may finish His work, and that you, too, can find that joy in service.
Love to all,
(Signed) RUTHIE SMITH