There’s so much in the news. Sometimes we miss human interest stories that are both heartrending and encouraging. Some years ago a story came to my attention about a 16-year-old girl who became pregnant out of wedlock, though she was in fact engaged. Early engagement and marriage is not as uncommon as one might think. In fact my great-grandmother Sally Rainey was only 15 when she married. It’s become almost common today, but many of us can remember when pregnancy without benefit of legal spouse was scandalous.
The girl’s fiancé in this story was sure he hadn’t gotten the girl pregnant - he was a “religious type.” Quite understandingly, he found it difficult to trust the story the girl was telling him. He loved the girl, but was reluctant to go through with the marriage and have his friends think him a fool – or to call the baby a “bastard” (meaning not knowing who the father was). It’s likely some of his friends suggested an abortion, but we don’t know. Like anyone with a modicum of common sense, he went to an experienced counselor for guidance. Because of the counselor’s knowledge of the couple, he advised they go ahead and marry – regardless what others might think.
When the girl’s unplanned pregnancy became obvious, people made a big deal of it. Even people where she and her fiancé worshiped didn’t like what they thought was going on.
At this point the couple decided the best thing – perhaps the only thing – was to get out of town, at least until the baby was born and things might quiet down. Like most folks of their class, there was scarcely money for travel or anything else. Fact is, on the trip, the couple was basically homeless. After a trek of some 80 miles and a week of travel, someone took mercy and provided makeshift shelter. Just in time.
A healthy baby boy was born. Mother and son did well, even though a doctor wasn’t present at the birth. Some other travelers heard about the situation and brought the baby gifts. But the little family was still in desperate circumstances. That can happen when a child gives birth to a child. Next the government got involved and politics also entered the picture. Of course, this made things go from bad to worse. The couple and the baby had to cross a state line to evade arrest.
Eventually things calmed down some, and the family was able to return back to their hometown. The baby became a young man, was home schooled and learned his father’s trade. But the son had other things on his mind. He grew up to be a famous teacher and world-changing leader. The boy’s mom and dad also became famous. Unplanned pregnancies sometimes bring unanticipated results. Who would have thought?
A few years ago I was traveling in the area where the baby was born. I’d heard the story about this family several times, wanted to visit the baby’s birthplace, and did so. It was in the little town of Bethlehem. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Bob Lynn is a longtime Alaskan and former member of the Alaska Legislature and U.S. Air Force. He lives in Anchorage.
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