Every Marriage Needs A Neighbor Rosicky

(first pub. 9.11.12)

"Polly ain't looking so good. I don't like to see anybody lookin' sad. It comes hard for a town girl to be a farmer's wife. I don't want to see no trouble to start in Rudolf's family. When it starts, it ain't easy to stop. An American girl don't git used to our ways all at once. I like to tell Polly she and Rudolf can have the car every Saturday night till after New Year's, if it's all right with you boys."

("Neighbor Rosicky," "The Treasury of American Short Stories", Barnes And Noble, 1981, Nancy Sullivan, Ed. p.228)

Sometimes short stories make for better sermons than sermons do.

Take for example Willa Cather's "Neighbor Rosicky" published in 1932.

It's about a Czech immigrant farmer in Nebraska laying down the last months of his life to help the hard-starting marriage of his eldest son Rudolph to a town girl named Polly.

Neghbor Rosicky wins his daughter in law's soul with a Christmas story of how he came to America.

He was a tailer's apprentice for a German (who spoke a little Czech) as a teenager in a London shop. The shop provided his work and home. One Christmas he went to bed hungry, amidst a perfectly cooked and hidden goose that the lady of the shop (Mrs. Lifschnitz) had squirreled away in his make shift sleeping quarters.

Rosicky couldn't sleep for the temptation, and ate half the goose.

Upon realizing what he had done, he hit the festive streets of London to somehow redeem himself. So he spills his heart to two festive Czech couples in high spirits, begging them to restore his goose. They take his name and address and also give him twenty shillings. Rosicky restores the goose, and fourfold besides, to the lady of the house.

And holy joy breaks out all round amongst the shopkeepers and lodgers.

Two to three days later the Czech fellows hunt down Rosicky, take in a good report from the tailor, Mr. Lifschnitz, and then paid his passage to New York.

Having heard this story, Polly relents to the marriage (seems some folks never get around to this).

And trusts her husband, his family, and her farming future. She seals this new found joy and peace by inviting the whole family to her house for a New Year's Eve celebration.

But Rosicky, ever being himself, overworks and has a heart event. And Polly is the first one to minister to him and, being born outside the family, she is the first to fully realize how great a neighbor he is:

"Rosicky motioned her to sit down on the chair where the tea-kettle had been, and looked up at her with that lively affectionate gleam in his eyes. 'You look awful good to me, I won't ever forgit dat. I hate to be sick on you like dis. Down at the barn I say to myself, dat young girl ain't had much experience in sickness, I don't want to scare her, an' maybe she's got a baby comin' or somet'ing.'

Polly took his hand. He was looking at her so intently and affectionately and confidingly; his eyes seemed to caress her face, to regard it with pleasure. She frowned with her funny streaks of eyebrows, and then smiled back at him.

'I guess maybe there is something of that going to happen. But I haven't told anyone yet, not my mother or Rudolph. You'll be the first to know.'

His hand pressed hers. She noticed that it was warm again. The twinkle in his yellow-brown eyes seemed to come nearer.  ......

She had a sudden feeling that nobody in the world, not her mother, not Rudolph, or anyone, really loved her as much as old Rosicky did. It perplexed her. She sat frowning and trying to puzzle it out. It was as if Rosicky had a special gift for loving people, something that was like an ear for music or any eye for colour. It was quiet, unobstrusive, it was merely there. You saw it in his eyes- perhaps that was why they were merry. ...." (p. 239)

We live in an age when many marriages begin with wedding pay day and end with divorce pay day (or a pay cut).

It doesn't have to be this way- there are neighbor Rosicky's out there.

If you're just married and it's off to a hard start, or in some other marital season of heavy heartedness, find your neighbor Rosicky.

Don't spread your personal business all over town! (That only leads to the aforementioned pay day or cut.)

Find folks who have learned to lay down their lives for a friend and a neighbor, who have learned to be happy with what they got, like the folks from Willa Cather's "Neighbor Rosicky."



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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.