Columnists > Voices

Not time to worry yet

Trust Jesus one more day, and one more day

Issue: "All's fair at the fair," Aug. 25, 2007

I think I'm in love with Atticus Finch. The age is about right, and he's available, leastwise legally, being a widower and all. I'll keep out of Calpurnia's kitchen, and Aunty Alexandra can stay put. I just want to listen to him talk.

Jem had got his pants caught on the gate and had to kick them off during the midnight Boo Radley caper and, against Scout's 6-year-old panicked judgment, left a restless bed to fetch them. Says Scout: "He went the back way, through Deer's Pasture, across the schoolyard and around to the fence, I thought-at least that was the way he was headed. It would take longer, so it was not time to worry yet. I waited until it was time to worry and listened for Mr. Radley's shotgun."

Sometime later, Miss Maudy's house caught on fire. By perverse coincidence, it was also the first snow in Maycomb, Ala., since 1885, and when the old firetruck hose was attached to the hydrant it burst. "Oh-h Lord, Jem," said Scout. "Jem put his arm around me. 'Hush, Scout,' he said. 'It ain't time to worry yet. I'll let you know when.'"

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Then there was the evening when Atticus had to have the little talk with Jem and his sister. "Your aunt has asked me to try and impress upon you and Jean Louise that you are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations' gentle breeding." But the lecture wasn't going so well, and Atticus wasn't pulling it off, not just to them but to himself. And then Scout says through tears, "'Atticus, is all this behavin' an' stuff gonna make things different? I mean are you-?' I felt his hand on the back of my head. 'Don't you worry about anything,' he said. 'It's not time to worry.' When I heard that, I knew he had come back to us."

Things got more serious afterwards. Excitement had been building for weeks. Atticus was going to defend Tom Robinson before all the eyes of Maycomb County that turned up for the spectacle. Hours of deliberation in triple-digit temperatures were followed by evidence thrown to the wind, and they got Tom on charges of raping a white woman. Jem, who by rights shouldn't have been in the balcony watching the proceedings but was, starts to cry. "'It ain't right, Atticus,' said Jem. 'No, son, it's not right.'" Next morning the conversation continues thus: "'It's not time to worry yet,' Atticus reassured him, as we went into the dining room. 'We're not through yet. You can count on that.'"

Later, Tom Robinson was at Enfield Prison Farm, off in Chester County. "I asked Atticus if Tom's wife and children were allowed to visit him, but Atticus said no. 'If he loses his appeal,' I asked one evening, 'what'll happen to him?' 'He'll go to the chair,' said Atticus, 'unless the Governor commutes his sentence. Not time to worry yet, Scout. We've got a good chance.'"

I reckon now you all know why I'm in love with Atticus Finch. It also brings to mind an O. Henry story we read in seventh grade called "The Last Leaf," in which a woman on her deathbed is convinced that she will expire when the vine outside her window sheds its last autumn leaf, a conviction which she shares with her bedside friend. Autumn comes upon them, and leaf by leaf the foliage is released, save for one stubborn leaf that hangs on and on. The woman hangs on and on too because the leaf does, and after a while of this, rallies her strength and recovers. Turns out an elderly artist neighbor had braved an icy storm to secretly paint an autumn leaf on the windowpane, in the process catching pneumonia and dying himself.

You can tell me the gospel in all different ways. You can say "Trust in Jesus" when I confide that I'm nervous about my new high-school teaching job with a syllabus (including To Kill a Mockingbird) to stagger far more worthy candidates. Or you can know something about my psychology and just talk to me like Atticus: "Andrée, it's not time to worry about it yet." And maybe I'll keep postponing worry five minutes at a time, and trust Jesus one more day, and one more day.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.

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