Books As A Life SaverWritten by Ellen M. DuBois
I cannot take credit for writing this, for I am only sharing with you something I found today. It is a very old page, worn and yellowed, from "The New Republic" dated December 8, 1917. What struck me about this article are two things: 1. The letter from gentleman, and 2. The extreme importance of books to soldiers overseas. The article states that two most important things soldiers desired were "tobacco and BOOKS". It seems that then, just as now, reading helped folks get through most adverse, frightening and challenging situations by giving mind something other than their fear or pain to focus on. I cannot even imagine terror experienced in battle and how these soldiers kept their sanity about them. I do know that reading played a significant role in matter.
I will now share with you this newspaper story. It is a chunk of history; a piece of time captured on brittle paper that I was fortunate enough to find within pages of, yes, you guessed it, a very old book.
December 8, 1917 THE NEW REPUBLIC V
"Who Thought of It- a Soldier?"
A LETTER FROM A CIVIL WAR VETERAN
"...I should like to meet some of gentlemen in our company, to thank them personally for what they have done for my grandson who is in France. I cannot help thinking that it must have been a soldier, a man who has been through fighting mill as I have, who initiated idea of providing such good books, in so convenient a Veteran. I fought from '62 to '65. I remember well craving I used to have for something good to read, something to offset loneliness and homesickness which was harder to bear than all our physical hardships. It was so keen that we used to pounce on scraps of newspaper we found. I tell you there is nothing that will so well keep up morale of fighting men as good reading matter. They need it to keep their minds off themselves. I know what our boys will go through; mental agonies are worse than anything else. Yet when my grandson at opening of war enlisted in Canadian Army, I was glorified- that is word!- to have him go. I sent with him blessing of God. I knew it was not love of adventure that urged him on, but something of same spirit with which we boys were filled long ago. It is a spirit as old as Christianity, spirit of Crusades. He longed to add his boy's strength to might of world to teach an everlasting lesson to those damned Potsdam animals, who were willing to drench world in blood without mercy, to further such a thing as sordid commercial ambitions. He has fought at Ypres and Vimy. He has been wounded twice. I have seen him again, and he is not same boy. He has seen, this child, more than I ever saw. War is hell to him, as it was to us; he hates it with all his soul, as I do. But he hates Kaiser and his crew more, and he will be there to end. This, gentlemen, is not what I wished to write to you. As you may appreciate, I feel this business keenly, and my feelings carries me away oftentimes. When I saw my grandson he asked me to write to you. Some time after he went away I sent him as many of your little books as I could buy. Before he received them, he and men with him many a time crouched for hours under heavy shelling- sometimes for days and nights, without relief- waiting, waiting for attacks. They had nothing to think of except what was going to happen to them. I believe only a soldier can appreciate mental condition of men under such circumstances! The books I sent were a godsend to him and his comrades. They constituted a sort of company library, each man carrying several of volumes in his pockets, and he told me there was hardly a man in company who had not read every one of books....I think it will be interesting, and heartening, for you to know how greatly you are helping to keep up morale of men who are enduring at front mental suffering that is beyond, truly beyond, imagination of us who stay at home."
AN AMERICAN TRAGEDYWritten by Dr. Dorree Lynn
One of my children is a daughter adopted 22 years ago from a little known orphanage in Pune, India. She joined our family at six weeks and became a US citizen before she could speak. Her pre-adoption history -- as are so many other adopted children's -- is a maze of facts and fabrications and we will never be able to weave together complete truth about her origins. Her identity is one formed as she grew up as part of our American family. She walks and talks with an all American athletic flair. In high school, one of her most memorable moments was to crew at challenging Head of Charles -- a most all American event. Summers, she earned spending money working as a lifeguard, teacher's aide, an administrative assistant and a sales person at a local boutique. We taught her American work ethic that with hard work and perseverance, she had a good chance of achieving her goals. Color was never to be used as an excuse to not do her best.
When I am with her, talking, cooking, arguing, I only see my daughter and I am colorblind. When I look at photographs of two of us, I am often stunned at stark contrast in our looks. It is only then that I see what world sees. Her luminescent deep bronze skin, large dark eyes and exquisite long dark hair is sharply contrasted with my own green eyes, short blond hair, and pale white complexion. Sometimes it takes me a moment to recognize two of us and to absorb visual difference we present.
Helping her come to grips with her Indian looks in a Caucasian family has taken awareness on her and our family's part. When she was eight, I took her on a pilgrimage to India. I wanted her to know her heritage and to be proud of it. Young and still unsure of whom she was; she was concerned about how they would know she was American. Without thinking I answered, "By way you walk." Not totally trusting my response, (which turned out to be true) she insisted on wearing emblematic blue jeans entire time we were there. I worried that those who saw her would think she was not well cared for. I was embarrassed and wanted her to wear a dress. She won, and made sure she flaunted uniform of her adopted country for all to see.
Now in her third year of college, she recently transferred to a university that is far from home, located in a city that is less cosmopolitan and international than her hometown of Washington, DC. It has a smaller international student body than she is used to, and at least in her eyes, more blue eyed females with long straight blond hair than she is accustomed to going to classes with. She has always been aware of being a minority, but before September 11th, she had experienced few ugly incidents related to her country of origin. If anything, she was developing a comfort level as "an attractive rare bird" valued by those of all skin shades.