The Sacrifice of Serenity
by Denny Hartford
(Scene opens on a simply set stage. A man is sitting on one of two chairs. He is lost in thought. A few seconds pass before a woman comes from offstage left. She sits down beside him.)
Sal: "Well, how is she?"
Rebecca: (She sighs as she sits down, shaking her head sadly.) "I guess she's okay...for now anyhow. I finally got her to fall asleep."
Sal: (Grabs her hand tenderly and holds it.) "I didn't know for awhile there whether she was going to or not. Poor little thing... It was such a shock to her."
Rebecca: "She just couldn't stop crying, Sal." (Rebecca seems near crying herself.) "I did everything I could to comfort her but there was just no settling her down. I felt so helpless. She's never acted quite like that before, you know. I was really beginning to wonder after a while whether she was going to snap out of it or not."
Sal: (He pats her hand.) "Yeah, I know, I thought she might wake up the other kids for a little while there." (Pause) "But honey; don't worry. She'll be fine."
Rebecca: "Oh, I know." (Long pause.) (Strongly, more to herself than to her husband.) "But who knows just how tonight's hysterics will affect her in the long run. I wish Don would never have come over, that's for sure."
Sal: "Now, Rebecca, it's not Don's fault. He didn't know she was in there listening."
Rebecca: (Only partially convinced.) "Oh, I realize that." (She rises, taking a moment to catch her breath.) "I know he didn't want it to happen or anything. But really, Sal, does he have to bring up the issue every time we see him anymore? I mean, gosh, its not like we were for abortion! We're as...I don't know...whatever it is he calls it..."
Rebecca: "Yeah, we're as pro-life as he is. But...well, you know what I mean, Sal. It doesn't serve any purpose to be so upset about it, or to let it rule your life like it seems to do his and Sharon's! And it certainly doesn't do any good to constantly upset everyone else's peace of mind like what they've been doing to the people at church!"
Sal: (Kindly.) "Honey, be fair now. You know he's not doing that but, think for just a minute. You know as well as I do that he does have a legitimate right to be upset. After all, Becky, he's talking about babies being killed! It is happening! It isn't a science fiction story, Becky; it's not just some freakish nightmare."
(He begins to speak more slowly, more thoughtfully as the truths sink in.) "A million and a half babies a year are dying and that's only here in the United States! You heard Dr. Richardson when he preached at church last fall, remember? He said we're destroying almost one of every three children conceived in America - over four thousand every single day! Rebecca, let's finally face it. It's something that we should be upset about... very upset about!"
Rebecca: (Immersed in her own thoughts, she doesn't answer Sal's remarks.) "Sal, you know, I hadn't even thought about nightmares. Remember how she reacted when Scruffy was run over." (To the ceiling.) "Oh please, Lord, don't make her go through that again." (They both lapse into silence for several seconds before Sal rises.)
Sal: "Well, I'm gonna' have another cup of coffee, Becky. Do you want some too?" (She hesitates.) "Something else, hon?"
Rebecca: (Still preoccupied.) "No, thanks. Maybe in a little bit." (Sal exits. Rebecca paces nervously while Sal is offstage. At times, she seems to be conducting a heated exchange with an unseen antagonist.) (Sal returns with two coffees.)
Rebecca: (Smiles slightly and takes one of the cups.)" Alright. I don't suppose it'll hurt." (She takes two quick sips.) (Sal moves casually over towards the exit nearest the children's room.) "You're worried too aren't you, Sal?"
Sal: "Huh?"(He decides not to fake it.) "Sure I am, Becky, a little bit anyhow. You're right about her being so sensitive and all..." (He pauses for a moment.) "Rebecca, it wasn't really so much what she overheard from Don that disturbed her as much as it was my answers to her questions, right?"
Rebecca: "Oh, I don't know, Sal. I think you only confirmed what she had already guessed from Don. I mean, let's face it," (With barely disguised disgust.) "there wasn't a whole lot left unsaid after he was done, was there?"
Sal: "Yeah, I suppose so."
Rebecca: (Another sip.) "Sal, don't you think Don must... well, you know... start exaggerating and all when he gets started on this stuff?
Sal: "How? Those statistics are real, Becky; he's not making them up. And, like tonight, when he was explaining what really happens in the abortion procedure - honey, that's what really happens! You saw those photos. No, Don's done his homework. I agree with you that it's pretty painful to face but, I'm afraid that what he's saying is all too accurate, hon."
Rebecca : "Well, what about that business tonight about asking you to jump in and get involved? Don't you think that was pretty brassy - the way he was throwing guilt-trips around?"
Sal: (Pauses.) "Honey, come on now. He wasn't throwing anything around; in fact, I think he does everything he can to keep from doing that. No, if I feel guilty, Becky, I don't think I can blame that on Don. In fact, I'd probably talk a lot tougher and use a lot more pressure if I was having as tough a time as he is in getting other people involved to help fight this thing. I mean, remember when he was quoting all of those Scriptures? That's pretty hard to dismiss, Rebecca. (Long pause.) No, honey, I have to admit that I think it's finally sinking into my own heart and I'm beginning to understand just where he's coming from."Like he was saying, Becky, of all people it's Christians who should be taking a clear stand against this kind of viciousness. But even as the death toll mounts, the Church is hardly doing a thing about it!"
Rebecca: "Oh?"(Sarcastically.) "Does that mean you're going to get out on the street with some kind of picket sign too? Or maybe you're going to go out and get yourself arrested like those women last month that sat in front of the abortion clinic?"
Sal: "Now, wait a second; I didn't say that. I only think that..."
Rebecca: (Increasingly indignant.) "Really, Sal, do you think that Christians should be doing that kind of thing? I mean we're supposed to be above repute and all, aren't we? We're not supposed to be starting trouble and stuff. You want to face the facts dear? Let's face facts! Christians already have more than our share of kooks out there without having to raise up some more. That talk of being lights of the world and salt of the earth and tying it in with evangelism and all... that's just Don's way of making his own little cause sound important. You know, he only..."
Sal: (Interrupts.) "Rebecca, now come on, you don't really believe this is just 'his own little cause' do you? It is important! Millions of babies just as precious as our own, are, in fact, being dismembered and destroyed!"
Rebecca: (Somewhat conciliatory.) "Yes, of course, it's important, Sal. But, after all, a lot of things are important, aren't they? Don makes it sound like we should just drop everything and jump into this one issue. He makes it sound like throwing away your dignity and getting out on a street corner with a sign is the answer to the world's problems. Now you have to agree with me there, don't you?"
Sal: "No, Rebecca, I don't. To be fair, I don't think he presents it that way at all. He only wants us to be more aware and more involved than we are now. And, it is pretty clear to me, honey, that we probably should be. When you really look at what's happening, just what are some of those things that are as important as this? Huh? How can we Christians not include among our responsibilities standing against the murder of unborn babies? I mean, we claim to represent the God of righteousness and compassion and justice Who created those babies. How can we ignore all of those Bible passages that demand our intercession for the innocent and the defenseless?"
Rebecca: " Good grief, Sal. You sound like Don Sorensen himself; that's who you sound like, you know."
Sal: "Well...whatever." (Brief pause.) "But you know, Becky, I don't take that comparison as the insult you intend it to be."
Rebecca: (She rises, walks over to him and lays a hand on his shoulder.)"Honey, I'm sorry. We shouldn't be getting angry with each other. We're only upset because we're worried about Betsy, don't you think?"
Sal: "Yeah, I guess so, hon." (Pause; he looks toward the stairs.)"You want me to go up and check on her?"
Rebecca: "No, not yet. Let's give her a few more minutes to make sure she doesn't wake up. You know how much noise the stupid stairs can make."
Sal: "Yeah, I'll go up in a little bit." (Sal sips his coffee slowly. Both are uncomfortable in their silence. Finally...) "Rebecca?"
Sal: (Awkwardly, seemingly suspicious.) "Rebecca, what did you... What did you actually tell her? I mean...she was so upset and all. How exactly did you get her to settle down?"
Rebecca: (Remains silent for a few seconds before answering.) "Sal, she's only a child."
Sal: "Of course, she is Rebecca. Now...what did you say to her?"
Rebecca: (Calm but resolute.) "Sal, if you expected me to let her go on crying her heart out, having nightmares from now on, scared to death that someday someone will get rid of her or her little brothers if they don't measure up somehow, well...then you're crazy, Sal."
Rebecca: "So what? What else could I tell her? Sal, she's only eight years old! There's no way she can handle that stuff Don was spouting off! You know that as well as I do."
Sal: (Also resolute now.) "Yes, Rebecca. So, just what did you tell her?"
Rebecca: ( Grieved and angry.) "So I convinced her that Don was wrong and yes, I told her that she misunderstood her father too and that she shouldn't believe what she thought he had told her! Is that what you're waiting to hear? Well, yes! I told her that no one was actually killing babies - not here in America and, in fact, I promised her that no one ever would! (Sal turns his head, more in sadness than in anger.) “I told her that her Uncle Don was only talking about operations on ladies that had special problems but it didn't happen very often and that it was only like when she had her appendix out and everything was fine afterwards for everybody." (Increasing in volume and anxious energy as she goes on.) "Yes, I told her everything was fine! She's my baby, Sal, how could I tell her anything different? Tell me... how is a mother supposed to tell her eight year old baby that she's going to grow up in a world gone crazy...in a world going fast to hell? Well, Sal? How? If you can, you go right on up there and you wake her up and you tell her again that she lives in a country where they kill children! You try to comfort her then! You try and stop her tears! You try and keep her from nightmares! Sure, you go ahead, Sal, and be sure you tell her all the gory details about suction machines and curettes and poisonous saline. Be sure you dwell on all that now!"
(The tirade ends. Rebecca collapses on the stool, sobbing. Sal goes to her and tries to take her hand. She draws away. He waits a moment, turns and slowly begins to walk towards the hallway. Rebecca looks up, still very angry.)
"Sal, don't tell me you're actually going to wake her up?" (She is incredulous and mad.) "How in the name of decency can you?"
Sal: (Calmly, sadly) "I'm only going to bed, Rebecca. I've had enough for tonight. I can talk to our daughter in the morning. But I'll tell you right now, Rebecca. I am going to talk to her. I am going to try and explain, not with all the gory details as you propose, but I am going to try and explain to her truthfully about those things she overheard tonight. I refuse to lie to her, Rebecca; her hope, like ours, lies in Christ and in faithfully serving Him. It doesn't lie in wishful thinking.” (A quiet moment of resignation.) “No, I won't lie to her, Becky, and, as far as that goes, I refuse to lie to myself anymore either. You and I may both loathe Don for coming over here tonight; we may loathe him for being the bearer of bad tidings these last few months but we simply cannot ignore any longer what he's saying. It is true! The craziness and the monstrous violence of it all is true! And honey; at least Don can tell his kids that he is trying to do something to stop it. He can tell them that his love for Jesus means something as it concerns those other kids! Rebecca, you won't be able to hide the terrible truth from her forever and what will you say to her on that afternoon when she comes up and asks you what you did back in the days when they were killing babies? Becky, honey; we can't leave for our children an example of dishonesty and laziness. We must leave them more than that. We must leave them a Christian faith with some reality to it... one that dares to confront this kind of evil with our Bibles and our prayers and our own courage and sacrifice."
Rebecca: (Still angry; incredulous) "I can't believe what I'm hearing from you. What are you going to do about her nightmares, Sal?"
Sal: "Rebecca, please! This is a nightmare...for all of us! What we have to do is wake up ourselves and then help wake up the world from a nightmare that is all too real. Honey, think for just a minute. You've heard Don; you listened to that young woman at the prayer breakfast last spring - the one who had gone through the heartbreak of an abortion herself; you heard pastor last week when he was going through James 2 when he spoke about the pro-life activists and how they are helping to save what little reputation the Church has left regarding righteousness." (He pauses and looks imploringly at his wife for a sympathetic response. She refuses to look towards him.)
"Rebecca, we can't pull the covers over our heads or the heads of our children. That's not love; that's ... that's cowardice. We can't put the premium on our comfort that we have for so long... not anymore. Please, Becky, don't you see..."
Rebecca: (Swiftly turning towards him and interrupting.) "Yes, I see, alright, Sal. I see a callous, insensitive man who, because of his weakness in the face of a guilt-flinging friend, a supposed friend anyhow, has decided to sacrifice the serenity of his own home and his own family. I think you better stay up and think about how quickly you're ready to write off the peace of your own home and the peace of those you say you love for some fanatical scheme to stop something that is never going to be stopped anyway! Life's hard enough as it is, Sal, without going out and... and... making trouble for yourself. If it's so terrible, God will take care of it in His own way anyhow, won't He?"
Sal: "Rebecca, the Lord has expressly..."
Rebecca: (Flippantly.) "No, no...I don't want to discuss it anymore, Sal. If you want some fellowship over this foolishness, why don't you call your buddy Don? I'm going on to bed." (She rises and exits very quickly.)
Sal: (Dejected, Sal watches her go. He stands there for several seconds before strolling across the room. He nervously rubs his coffee cup as he thinks. After a considerable time, he subtly nods his head and moves toward the stool. He pauses for a few more seconds, then sits his cup down and picks up a telephone receiver. He dials and waits for a brief time.) "Don? This is Sal. I'm sorry for calling at this hour and all but..." (Pause.) "Well, I'm glad of that at least..." (Pause.) "Oh, of course. Well, yes, thank you. I'll tell her so. Listen, Don, the reason I needed to call was ... well, it was to ask you about this Saturday and all, you know, the...uh...the prayer vigil you folks have over at that abortion clinic..." (Pause.) "Yeah, right."
(He takes a deep breath.) "Listen, uh...what time do you head down there?"