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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #6

"Mary had always been good. Sometimes she had been so good that Laura could hardly bear it. But now she seemed different. One time Laura asked her about it.

"'You used to try all the time to be good,' Laura said. 'And you always were good. It made me so mad sometimes, I wanted to slap you. But now you are good without even trying.'

"Mary stopped still. 'Oh, Laura, how awful! Do you ever want to slap me now?'

"'No, never,' Laura answered honestly.

"'You honestly don't? You aren't just being gentle to me because I'm blind?'

"'No! Really and honestly no, Mary. I hardly think about your being blind. I -- I'm just glad you're my sister. I wish I could be like you. But I guess I never can be,' Laura sighed. 'I don't know how you can be so good.'

"'I'm not really,' Mary told her. 'I do try, but if you could see how rebellious and mean I feel sometimes, if you could see what I really am, inside, you wouldn't want to be like me.'

"'I can see what you're like inside,' Laura contradicted. 'It shows all the time. You're always perfectly patient and never the least bit mean.'

"'I know why you wanted to slap me,' Mary said. 'It was because I was showing off. I wasn't really wanting to be good. I was showing off to myself, what a good little girl I was, and being vain and proud, and I deserved to be slapped for it.'

"Laura was shocked. Then suddenly she felt that she had known that, all the time. But, nevertheless, it was not true of Mary. She said, 'Oh, no, you're not like that, not really. You are good.'

"'We are all desperately wicked and inclined to evil as the sparks fly upwards,' said Mary, using the Bible words. 'But that doesn't matter.'

"'What!' cried Laura.

"'I mean I don't believe we ought to think so much about ourselves, about whether we are bad or good,' Mary explained.

"'But, my goodness! How can anybody be good without thinking about it?' Laura demanded.

"'I don't know, I guess we couldn't,' Mary admitted. 'I don't know how to explain what I mean very well. But -- it isn't so much thinking, as -- as just knowing. Just being sure of the goodness of God.'

"Laura stood still, and so did Mary, because she dared not step without Laura's arm in hers guiding her. There Mary stood in the midst of the green and flowery miles of grass rippling in the wind, under the great blue sky and white clouds sailing, and she could not see. Everyone knows that God is good. But it seemed to Laura then that Mary must be sure of it in some special way.

"'You are sure, aren't you?' Laura said.

"'Yes, I am sure of it now all the time,' Mary answered. 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. I think that's the loveliest psalm of all.'"

-Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie (1941), pp. 11-13

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