I have been thinking and praying about now….this very moment, this very time in our lives. We are all experiencing these events in many different ways, with differing concerns. We are trying to muddle through the fear of getting sick and the economic impact…..and are reading and hearing mixed messages that do little to comfort. We are being exposed to the best of who we are far more than the worst, though that exists. Our mental health is taking a beating we haven’t quantified in any meaningful way. We too often have little understanding of what survival means past food, shelter and utilities. It seems different for everyone.
I am in there with all the rest! But as time goes on, little time in the bigger picture, I have thought and thought about our history and how it teaches. How it informs what we now call “best practices.” How its lessons can model our way forward, whether it is 1941 or now? How do we become another “greatest generation”? What made that generation great?….they endured both the Great Depression and WWII. What will our legacy be for these days and weeks…perhaps months or years? What will the history books say about our society and our response as individuals that make up that society? What will our young people, children, grandchildren, friends and colleagues remember about each of us…how we behaved, how we spoke, how we respected one another by following suggested public health guidelines? How we interacted with a hurting world? When we think of prior national events that called for long term sacrifice, does wearing a mask pale by comparison? What model or example do we need to provide to reflect a people of character, of integrity, of compassion, of love for one another?
For those who follow the Christian gospel message, these requests are the walking responses…..loving your neighbor now means allowing your neighbor to remain well. For the vulnerable neighbor, of any age, it can mean the difference between living or dying.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
These photos represent ration books that belonged to husband John’s family. They were part of the national response to World War II to set price limits and ration food and other commodities in order to discourage hoarding and ensure the equitable distribution of scarce resources. Even the rationed items were dependent on availability which changed often and foods were scarce. Sugar, coffee, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk were just some of the foods rationed. Instructions included the following: “when you have used your ration, salvage the tin cans and waste fats. They are needed to make munitions for our fighting men.” I try to imagine this happening now.
Other items rationed included automobiles, tires, gasoline, fuel oil, nylon, silk and shoes.
Many of us have heard of these events first hand, through the words of parents or grandparents. Some were children during those years…..John included. Many of you might say the same. He remembers soldiers on their farm property, maneuvers an every day event. He remembers his mother cooking for the soldiers with food from their “Victory Garden,” another federally suggested response that provided 40% of the vegetables grown during the war. For those who lived in cities, window boxes proved to work for growing small amounts. The goal was collective…..food for American families that therefore allowed more food to be sent overseas to soldiers.
On many fronts, in many ways, citizens worked together for the war effort and the good of all. We have mostly all heard or read of the sacrifices made on a daily basis for the duration of the war, 1941-1945. We know of the respect and appreciation long felt towards those who served, those who died and those who provided support at home. To speak of the economics of the time and the changes for individual families would add volumes to an already minimized set of paragraphs. It’s just not possible!
Wearing a mask and safe distancing seem amazingly simple. None of us should leave a legacy that includes the death of a family member…or a neighbor, because we failed to protect them by our individual choices. We haven’t lost our rights….we will always have the right to make good choices that will benefit our families as well as our neighbors.