Socially, politically, economically, militarily, culturally, racially, sexually, demographically, even mythologically, World War II was the crucible that forged modern America. It was the transforming event that reshaped all who lived through it, and continues to affect those born after it. Only the American Revolution that created the new nation and the Civil War that preserved the Union rank with it in importance.
Everyone was always hungry. The poorer you were, the hungrier you were, and with the hunger came weakness and irritability. It became difficult to think clearly and you needed to think clearly to work out how to survive the next day, how to get food. You were sure you could still work if you could find work, and you could look for it if only you could eat. But how were you going to get food, for yourself, for your children, for your wife or husband, for your parents? There were simply too many people within those walls for the calories that were let in. How were you to get food when there just wasn't enough of it? What were you going to have to do? With hunger of this severity came fatigue, a weakness that transcended tiredness and permeated your sinews and bones. As your limbs got ever lighter, they felt progressively heavier with each new day.
We live in hope that the good we do here on earth will be rewarded in heaven. We also hope to win the war. We hope that right and goodness will triumph, and that when the war is won, we shall have a better world. And we work toward that end. We buy war bonds and put out incendiaries and knit stockings---"And pumpkin-colored scarves, Polly thought."---and volunteer to take in evacuated children and work in hospitals and drive ambulances" - here Alf grinned and nudged Eileen sharply in the ribs - "and man anti-aircraft guns. We join the Home Guard and the ATS and the Civil Defence, but we cannot know whether the scrap metal we collect, the letter we write to a solider, the vegetables we grow, will turn out in the end to have helped win the war or not. We act in faith."But the vital thing is that we act. We do not rely on hope alone, thought hope is our bulwark, our light through dark days and darker nights. We also work, and fight, and endure, and it does not matter whether the part we play is large or small. The reason that God marks the fall of the sparrow is that he knows that it is as important to the world as the bulldog or the wolf. We all, all must do 'our bit'. For it is through our deeds that the war will be won, through our kindness and devotion and courage that we make that better world for which we long.
That they were torn from mistakes they had no chance to fix; everything unfinished. All the sins of love without detail, detail without love. The regret of having spoken, of having run out of time to speak. Of hoarding oneself. Of turning one’s back too often in favour of sleep. I tried to imagine their physical needs, the indignity of human needs grown so extreme they equal your longing for wife, child, sister, parent, friend. But truthfully I couldn’t even begin to imagine the trauma of their hearts, of being taken in the middle of their lives. Those with young children. Or those newly in love, wrenched from that state of grace. Or those who had lived invisibly, who were never know.