Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Tenth Commandment


The Tenth Commandment  


Elder Bouwsma is always full of jokes.  I want to say that at the outset, and also that I’m glad that the following is on his record, and not on mine.

The Krugers and the Bruinings live next to each other. Brother Kruger is a grocer and his wife, unfortunately named Hennie, is a nonstop talker. I say “unfortunately” because people, playing with her name, say that he is a henpecked husband. In fact, he is known as “the husband of Hennie Kruger.” She wakes up talking, making all sorts of observations about the weather, the things she has to do that day, the things he has to do, the grocery business in general, and his store in particular. On and on she talks, and he, rather dumbly, just nods along in agreement. People wonder how he can stand it. The more benevolent of our congregation feel sorry for him but the less charitable shake their heads and say that he needs to stand up for himself.

Elder Bouwsma and I went to bring the annual home visit to the Krugers. As usual, Hennie did the talking while we could squeeze in a remark now and then, and Brother Kruger didn’t get a chance.

Elder Bouwsma belonged to the less charitable people of the congregation and summarized the visit as a typical home visit with Hennie Kruger and her husband.

The neighbour, Brother Bruining, presents a completely different picture. He is an artist and so full of brilliant ideas and inspirations that his wife leads a nervous existence. He has the habit of spontaneously inviting many friends and acquaintances to dinner without informing his wife, and he, himself, is usually late at the table. He makes a lot of things (e.g. a massive Gothic sideboard that can’t fit in the room because of its height and now stands in the hallway) or buys something at an auction (e.g. a horsehair sofa that absolutely has to be in the front room). Furthermore, he is hopelessly disheveled, his clothes are covered with paint, he does not own a single pair of pants that have a pleat, his hair is always a mess, and he has a thunderous laugh. They have a dog of some indeterminate breed and ultra-modern paintings on the wall.  

Mrs. Bruining is madly in love with her husband, despite her anxious existence. She is a woman who sighs a lot, especially since her three children take after their father.  

Sister Bruining opened the door and let us in. We put our hats on the Gothic sideboard and were allowed to sit on the horsehair sofa. The dog came into the room barking, needing to inspect us.  

Brother Bruining was not home yet; surely held up by a sudden inspiration.  

And this allowed Sister Bruining to tell us some things about her husband. 

“He is so . . . incomprehensible, she sighed.” 

We sighed along. 

“And so spontaneous!”  

We nodded understandingly.  

This opened the floodgates even wider and she poured out her heart for three-quarters of an hour. “Do you believe that I often envy my neighbour? With a husband like Hennie’s, at least you know what you have; always home, always on time. . . . Me, on the other hand. . . .”  

And then Elder Bouwsma said with a straight face: “You are talking about your neighbour Hennie Kruger, right? But then you should think about the Tenth Commandment.”  

Sister Bruining looked at him in surprise: “The Tenth Commandment?”  

“Yes, Sister, you do know the Tenth Commandment, don’t you?”  

Her furrowed forehead indicated that she was reciting it in her mind.  

“Oh,” she said cleverly, “but I do not covet my neighbour’s wife!”  

“Oh, no,” Elder Bouwsma replied, that’s not what I mean; but there is more in that commandment."  

We heard her mutter: “Nor his manservant, nor his maidservant. . . .” 

Elder Bouwsma nodded: “Go on.”  

“Nor his ox, nor his donkey. . . .”  

“Stop, he shouted, you got it.”  

And then sister Bruining laughed so hard that she did not even hear her husband come in.  

I must admit that I laughed out loud as well. But I do wonder if a man like Brother Bouwsma is really fit for the office.