Guest Columnist

Seeing sacrifice through a different lens

A mannequin depicting a British officer is seen at the Cabinet War Room, in the bunker that used to house the Cabinet Wa
A mannequin depicting a British officer is seen at the Cabinet War Room, in the bunker that used to house the Cabinet War rooms, in central London, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. The Cabinet War rooms was the secret subterranean command center where wartime leader Winston Churchill plotted the downfall of Nazi Germany and sheltered from enemy air raids during the infamous Blitz on London. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

With shocking swiftness, life as we knew it has changed. Always a daily reader, I have more time than ever on my hands for this pleasure. My current read is Erik Larson’s most recent novel, “The Splendid and the Vile,” about Churchill and life in London during the Blitz. It has given me pause to reflect and view our current sea-change of daily life with a new perspective.

In no way do I want to minimize the hardships being faced by millions of Americans, from job losses to business closings to fear for the health of our loved ones and our health care workers, to the actual loss of life that will touch many of us. But for a majority of Americans, the sacrifices we must now make pale in comparison to what the British people faced during World War II.

While we give up daily social interactions, eating out, movies, concerts, and the like, we are offered a myriad options for online entertainment and education. We can connect with friends and family via social media, we can walk, run, and bike outside, we can currently order takeout from restaurants. In the above mentioned book, the only photo is one of three men standing in a library amid piles of rubble and wooden beams with an open sky above. They were perusing the books still on the shelves. Today I visited a library and was able to pick up a book I had on hold through an open window. No debris. No hardship.

Londoners endured nightly bombings, awakened night after night in terror to the sounds, vibrations, and smells of the destruction all around. The anxiety produced a condition known as “Siren Stomach.” While we sleep comfortably in our beds, they tried to sleep in dark subway stations, crammed in with hundreds of others, or in the pathetically ineffectual Anderson shelters in their backyards.

Londoners faced severe food rationing and some items were not available at all. If they wanted eggs, they had to keep their own chickens. Not exactly easy for someone living in a flat. We are faced only with reducing our visits to stores and have the luxury of grocery pickups and deliveries. The temporary shortages of toilet paper we hear of are just that, temporary. In London, the King had to order the palace’s supply from the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., writing in his request, “A packet or two of 500 sheets at intervals would be most acceptable.”

While we deal with cancellation of in-person funeral services and must opt for private burials, when Londoners lost family and friends to the bombs, often the bodies could not even be retrieved from under the piles of rubble.

While kids are now out of school and parents and teachers are doing a remarkable job to promote learning from home, kids in London practiced gas-attack drills and faced evacuation to “safety” in the country. Those experiences produced their own trauma.

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Can we look at what we face from a new perspective? When you’re frustrated by all that you can’t do right now, remember those Londoners and the British people in general, in daily fear of invasion of their homeland and surrounded by real evidence of the great menace that was Hitler. And remember our parents and grandparents who lived through the deprivations of the Great Depression. Those hardships lasted far longer than what we are facing, and they dealt with it all with forbearance and resilience. We can too.

Bonnie Dodge of Cedar Rapids is a retired 8th grade language arts teacher at Vernon Middle School in Marion.

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