There is a great book out there called “The Splendid and the Vile; A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by Erik Larson – Crown New York 2020. According to Larson –
Mass-Observation, was an organization launched in Britain two years before the war, that recruited hundreds of volunteers to keep daily diaries.
The goal of helping sociologists better understand ordinary British life in scary times. They were not necessarily spying on their fellow man, but keeping a record of their feelings and thoughts as the days and weeks went by in their lives. Comments about neighbors was a bonus. When the war heated up and London was under constant attack and bombing the diaries served an important function. They kept the British government informed on an anecdotal basis of the morale of the individual citizen in London. London was bombed almost daily and yet nothing was ever shut down. People continued to worship at church even though the bigger churches in London were targets. Black out curtains of course were used but the normal course of daily events for most Londoners never stopped. Some of the diary entries are fascinating. Friends of Churchill’s daughter wrote about a night of dance club hopping. They wrote about how much fun they had at one Dancehall and how excited they were to go to another place because of the bandleader and his popularity. Their description of arriving at the new venue just as it exploded from bombs is quite terrifying. The effect of finding many of their friends dead inside the rubble is stunning.
For most people the concern seems to have been of being buried alive. Many people refused to use the subway system for shelter. Orders to simply stay in your house if you weren’t going to go to the shelter, were also ignored because of that fear. One of the fascinating consequences of that fear was many people gathering on the roofs of their buildings during bombings because they thought if their building was hit they would at least be on top of the rubble.
The overwhelming fear of course was for children. Most children were sent in the countryside where the bombing was less intense. And the saddest stories was of some 1400 children were put on an ocean liner and sent to Canada to be safe from the bombing. The parents saw them off at the docks and tearfully did what they thought was best for the children. The appalling fact was that less than a week later they found out that a German U-boat had sunk the ship and all the children were dead.
Some have ridiculously compared this situation (covid – 19) to all kinds of incredibly dangerous and frightening times in world history. There will be plenty of time to analyze that. When we start really looking at numbers of dead this virus looks rather puny but it’s effects have been devastating.
So I’ve been wondering if you’ve been keeping a diary and what it might look like? There was an old comedy routine called “what I did on my summer vacation” in which the author repeats ad nauseum “ I got up. Went to look for a job. Didn’t find a job. Hung out in front of the drugstore.” Finally when you’re about to scream from hearing this repeated over and over again the narrator says, “got up, Went to look for a job, couldn’t find a job, went to hang out at the drugstore and got a job keeping people from hanging out in front of the drugstore”. Maybe your diary is “got up went to find toilet paper, came home and worried about not being able to find toilet paper” For some, your diary might be completely centered on frustration and staying home with children, having nothing to do. For others it might be fear of losing a job. For others the fear of getting the disease might be the center if it all. For me right now most of my diary entries would be about caring for my mother. What to make her for breakfast; what pills she needs to take; how can I get her to walk? Even in
a pandemic situation which many think is a crisis, every day brings a crisis of its own.
I would like to think that my diary would be full of high and grandiose thoughts that will bring out the best in us and give us all hope and courage. I would like to think my diary would be full of contemplations of God‘s mercy and the fact that while we were his enemies Christ died for us. Maybe I would do meditations on God’s diary, and all of his thoughts being centered around us and our salvation, and how God the Father sings over us while we sleep, and gives us what we need while we rest. I would like to think that I would meditate on the cross of Christ the way John Gerhard did to strength and inspire his friends.
Sadly my diary will probably be more questions about why the cat chose that spot to cough up a hairball, and why for two days in a row I get no mail and all of a sudden my mailbox is full?
It was interesting in the diary’s from London that the most depressing thing for most people was not bombing, the fear of poison gas, worry of a sudden and violent death; it was lack of tea.
Everything is perspective. For people who know that life is difficult and dangerous and maybe short, the worst thing in their day would be the loss of the one thing that allows them to keep things in perspective, and that was a cup of tea.
Here is some perspective from Luther as he contemplated the Book of Revelation and compare to the strained times in which he lived. Luther was under attack from the government and the church; there was pestilence and death all around him but here are some of his thoughts.
If only the word of the Gospel remains pure among us, and we love and cherish it, we shall not doubt that Christ is with us, even when things
are at their worst. As we see here in this book, that through and beyond all plagues, beasts, and evil angels Christ is nonetheless with His
saints, and wins the final victory.