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Opinion Carpenter and fiancee hesitant to bring child into troubled world

A Nativity scene. (Tytus Zmijewski/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
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Mary, who was self-employed, was betrothed unto Joseph, a carpenter. And lo, Mary and Joseph had both always assumed they would have kids one day, but they had not really had the discussion.

And lo, one afternoon in Nazareth, Joseph went unto Mary and said, “Mary, I know that I at least had always assumed we would have kids. It just seemed like one of those milestones. But I have been looking around at the world lately, and I am not certain. I think we had better actually have the discussion.”

And Mary nodded in agreement. And they did sit down in that place that is called Couch, and lo, they began to discuss.

“Yikes,” Joseph said, and Mary nodded. “The world right now just does not seem to me like a great place to be bringing a child into.”

“No,” Mary said. “Everything these days is bad, and when I look at the world, it fills me with absolute dread. Disease is everywhere. We belong to a persecuted religious minority, and it is not a good time to belong to a religious minority.”

“When is it a good time?” Joseph asked.

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“No, I take your point,” Mary said unto him, “but now seems bad. Also, we — haven’t lived in a functioning republic for, like, a while.”

“For decades now,” Joseph said. “I guess Augustus is still elected, kind of, but it really does not feel like a system in which the people have their accustomed say … not that we would really have had a say anyway, you know, given our status and where we live.”

“No,” Mary said. “But in theory, it was still better to have a functioning representative system.”

They sat there.

“Earning a living is hard,” Mary said. “And women don’t have many rights, and that seems unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.”

“No,” Joseph said. “That’s true.”

“And also from a simple logistical perspective, we are supposed to travel in nine months, and the inn we have booked is not only not kid-friendly, but I would describe it as actively kid-hostile,” Mary added.

“Yes,” Joseph said unto her, making a rapid note unto himself, “that inn we have definitely booked and not forgotten to book.”

“The world is very bleak,” Mary went on, “generally inhospitable to refugees and the poor, and everybody is competing for resources that aren’t distributed well.”

“No,” Joseph said, “they aren’t. I don’t get any parental leave at all.”

“I was going to count on my cousin to help out, but she just conceived,” Mary said.

“Wow, Elizabeth!” Joseph said. “At her age!”

Mary rolled her eyes. “Technically, anything over 35 is considered a geriatric pregnancy,” she said. “It starts to be ridiculous. Also from what she’s been saying about how she plans to parent, she might end up with a kid who was somehow both really into bathing and not quite into bathing enough.”

“Mm,” Joseph said.

“Should I be making a list?” Mary asked. “This is getting pretty bleak.”

“Life expectancy isn’t great,” Joseph went on, and lo, Mary did write that down as a bullet point. “There’s no guarantee that a child brought into this world right now would have a better life than we had, and that’s sad to think about.”

They looked at the list. “Do we have anything to put on the other side?”

And, lo, they were silent for a bit.

“Figs,” Mary said. “Figs are great. And at night right after the sun sets, the sky is always a fascinating color, different every time. And people are all right.”

“Are they?”

“And — everything so bleak like this — it just seems like a sad place to stop the story.” Mary fiddled with a thread on her garment. "Maybe we could raise someone who had hope, who could help fix things that are broken.”

“Through carpentry!” Joseph said.

“Sure,” Mary said. “Or something.”

“Besides,” Joseph said, “some things are constants.”

“The climate is still fine,” Mary agreed, “and that’s one thing we know is never going to change.”

“That’s true,” Joseph said. “How could that even happen?”

They laughed.

“Things are bad,” Joseph said. “But I think they used to be worse. They must have been worse before aqueducts.”

“And the only way they ever get fixed is if people don’t get discouraged and have hope and want to work together to make them better. That would be the point of bringing someone into the world. To help with that.”

Joseph nodded. “If we did that, that could be all right. That could be worth doing.”

They sat there and looked up at the sky. The sun had set, and the sky was royal purple, bleeding into blue, with stars starting to peer out.

“Actually,” Mary said, “on a related note, I’ve got some news.”