Lily frowned, trying to remember. Our leader told us, when he make the welcome speech, but I cant remember. I guess I wasnt paying attention. It was from another community. They had to leave very early, and they had their midday meal on the bus.
Mother nodded. Do you think its possible that their rules may be different? And so they simply didnt know what your play area rules were?
Lily shrugged, and nodded. I suppose.
Youve visited other communities, havent you? Jonas asked. My group has, often.
Lily nodded again. When we were Sixes, we went and shared a whole school day with a group of Sixes in their community.
How did you feel when you were there?
Lily frowned. I felt strange. Because their methods were different. They were learning usages that my group hadnt learned yet, so we felt stupid.
Father was listening with interest. Im thinking, Lily, he said, about the boy who didnt obey the rules today. Do you think its possible that he felt strange and stupid, being in a new place with rules that he didnt know about?
Lily pondered that. Yes, she said, finally.
I feel a little sorry for him, Jonas said, even though I dont even know him. I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid.
How do you feel now, Lily? Father asked. Still angry?
I guess not, Lily decided. I guess I feel a little sorry for him. And sorry I made a fist. She grinned.
Jonas smiled back at his sister. Lilys feelings were always straightforward, fairly simple, usually easy to resolve. He guessed that his own had been, too, when he was a Seven.
He listened politely, though not very attentively, while his father took his turn, describing a feeling of worry that hed had that day at work: a concern about one of the new children who wasnt doing well. Jonass fathers title was Nurturer. He and the other Nurturers were responsible for all the physical and emotional needs of every new child during its earliest life. It was a very important job, Jonas knew, but it wasnt one that interested him much.
What gender is it? Lily asked.
Male, Father said. Hes a sweet little male with a lovely disposition. But he isnt growing as fast as he should, and he doesnt sleep soundly. We have him in the extra care section for supplementary nurturing, but the committees beginning to talk about releasing him.
Oh, no, Mother murmured sympathetically. I know how sad that must make you feel.
Jonas and Lily both nodded sympathetically as well. Release of newchilden was always sad, because they hadnt had a chance to enjoy life within the community yet. And they hadnt done anything wrong.
There were only two occasions of release which were not punishment. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we-have-done. This was especially troubling for the Nurturers, likeFather, who felt they had failed somehow. But it happened very rarely.
Well, Father said, Im going to keep trying. I may ask the committee for permission to bring him here at night, if you dont mind. You know what the night-crew Nurturers are like. I think this little guy needs something extra.
Of course, Mother said, and Jonas and Lily nodded. They had heard Father complain about the night crew before. It was a lesser job, night-crew nurturing, assigned to those who lacked the interest or skills or insight for the more vital jobs of the daytime hours. Most of the people on the night crew had not even been given spouses because they lacked, somehow, the essential capacity to connect to others, which was required for the creation of a family unit.
Excerpted from The Giver. Copyright (c) 1993 Lois Lowry. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
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