Liza stared at the young man, Mr. Winthrop, who stood at her door. The fear and concern shown in his face. “Please?” he begged. “Please, won’t you come? I’m afraid my wife and baby will die without your help.”
Liza had grown up in the city and was highly educated and well trained as a midwife. But she fell in love with a man who took her far away to the rugged west. When her husband died, Liza found herself trying to run her farm and take care of her eight children while still using her midwifery skill to help others. But too often she was busy helping others when she needed to be directing her sons in the harvest. Between that and people not paying her for the help delivering the babies, she lost her farm.
She moved to a new community and found a rundown farm. It had a small dilapidated cabin. She and her children worked hard to fix up the cabin and plant the farm. But now it was harvest time again, and the cold days were approaching. If they didn’t get the beet crop harvested, she would never be able to make the farm payments.
But with all of these worries, the thought of the young mother trying to give birth and possibly losing her life became Liza’s overriding concern.
She turned to her oldest son. “David, Mr. Winthrop’s horses are exhausted. Please unhitch them and hitch ours to his wagon while I get my things ready to go.”
By the time she had everything packed, the wagon was ready. As she climbed up beside Mr. Winthrop, she took David’s hand. “Take care of things here, and try to harvest what you can.”
David nodded. “We’ll be okay, Mother.”
Mr. Winthrop pushed the horses hard, but it was still a few hours before they arrived at his home. When Liza entered the room where Mrs. Winthrop was laboring to give birth to the baby, she could tell immediately that the situation was desperate. The additional time it had taken for her to get there had stressed both the mother and the baby.
She worked skillfully and as fast as she could, and within an hour, the baby was born. But the ordeal was a long ways from being over. The baby’s heartbeat was erratic, and the mother was barely conscious. Liza continued to work to stabilize both of them.
For many days Liza worked to help the young mother and the baby. Other women came to help, and Liza directed their combined efforts. Mr. Winthrop did everything she asked, and was there with his wife, helping Liza during many sleepless nights.
It was almost a full week before Liza felt everything was all right, and she knew that the next day she would finally be able to return home. But each night she had stayed there the weather had grown a little colder. And that last night the temperature dropped so low she knew the beets in the ground would be frozen.
The next day, as Mr. Winthrop hitched the team to take her home, she could barely hold back the tears. It was a long ride home as she wondered if she would have to move and start over again. But as they finally turned onto the road on her farm, to her surprise she saw row after row of harvested beets.
When they pulled into the yard, her children ran to greet her. “David, how did you get the beets all harvested?” she asked.
He just laughed. “It wasn’t just us. The whole community came.”
Mr. Winthrop smiled at her. “That’s the way it is here. When you are helping someone else, others are there to help you.”
And this time Liza could not stop her tears from coming, because for the first time in a long time she knew what it felt like to be part of a truly caring community.