Do you know the story of the Old Woman and Her Pig? As I sat down to write about my conundrum, I thought of this story my mom would often tell us as kids.
It goes something like this:
An old woman was sweeping her house, and she found a little sixpence. She decided to go the market and buy a pig.
On her way home, she and the pig came to a stile; but the piggy wouldn’t go over the stile.
She went a little further and met a dog. She said, “Dog! dog! bite pig; piggy won’t go over the stile; and I shan’t get home tonight.” But the dog would not.
She went a little further and met a stick. She said, “Stick! stick! beat dog! dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home tonight.” But the stick would not…
To condense the story, the old woman encounters one thing after another and each time attempting to get its help. She comes upon Fire, Water, an Ox, a Butcher, a Rope, a Rat, and then a Cat and a Cow.
…She came to the cat and said, “Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won’ t gnaw rope; rope won’t hang butcher; butcher won’t kill ox; ox won’t drink water; water won’t quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home tonight.” Finally the cat said to her, “If you will go to yonder cow, and fetch me a saucer of milk, I will kill the rat.” So away went the old woman to the cow.
But the the cow said to her, “If you will go to yonder haystack, and fetch me a handful of hay, I’ll give you the milk.” So away went the old woman to the hay-stack; and she brought the hay to the cow.
As soon as the cow had eaten the hay, she gave the old woman the milk; and away she went with it in a saucer to the cat.
As soon as the cat had lapped up the milk, the cat began to kill the rat; the rat began to gnaw the rope; the rope began to hang the butcher; the butcher began to kill the ox; the ox began to drink the water; the water began to quench the fire; the fire began to burn the stick; the stick began to beat the dog; the dog began to bite the pig; the little pig in a fright jumped over the stile; and so the old woman got home that night.
This is the game we get to play with the Army. Alan goes to Finance and says, “My contract says this, but it’s not happening. Can you help me?”
Finance says, “Sure, you need to go talk to Housing.”
And in ‘Pig over the Stile’ fashion he is passed along for the next 4 1/2 months, speaking to 18 different people who should know how to help him. But they don’t.
Then on Monday, he met the Cat and heard her hopeful promise.
On Tuesday the Cow made her demands. In fact, to our surprise (and a little anger on my part), the Cow was a little more demanding than a simple bundle of hay. This time the Cow wanted triple. We wondered how we would ever “get home tonight”.
But unlike the Old Woman who forgot to pray and ask “please”, we didn’t forget.
Wednesday, we went back to the Cow and asked her if she was absolutely sure she needed us to triple the hay and would she please help us. The Cow would consult Cow #2 and get back to us.
Thursday morning, Cow #2 calls My Al. Cow #2 appears to be all-knowing and expresses her annoyance at all the trouble My Al has been through to get this “pig to jump the stile” and says to refer all disobedient helpers to her if they give us any more trouble.
Today is Friday. We haven’t seen any milk yet. For months, the players in this game have appeared to be frozen–statues for all we know. But Cow #2 gave us more hope than anyone has. For the first time, I feel like there are a few important players who know how–and are willing–to do their job.
As players in this game, our Coach is teaching us a lesson in faith. And to sit back and enjoy the scenery.