My parents married on Valentine’s Day in 1942, smack dab in the middle of World War II. While fear and terror encircled the globe, Mom and Dad circled each other with young love, big dreams, and bright hope for their future. After having their first child, Dad was shipped off to Europe where he saw other men, women, and children suffer atrocities so terrible he would scarcely speak of them the rest of his days. Yet, in spite of the unfathomable barbarism wreaked by the malevolent triumvirate of Germany, Italy, and Japan, hope would not be conquered. No, the 1940s may have felt like the end of the world, but it wasn’t.
Twenty years and eleven children after they married, my parents had me. Born in the early 60s when riots and revolutions reigned, I was well cocooned from the chaos and confusion of the time. Even though long-held values and morals were being turned inside out and upside down, and even as vague news snippets about a pointless war in Vietnam and a charismatic leader named Martin Luther King, Jr. were swirling around our black-and-white TV, the only real chaos I knew was quite innocuous: an older brother, not immune from teenage rebelliousness, grew out his hair and beard and sold tie-dyed leather goods; other brothers competed too seriously on the basketball court and ended up in a slugfest; a sister didn’t finish a project, making everyone late for school; another refused to help pitch in with Saturday-morning jobs; a sister whose brakes gave out crashed through our garage door; a teenage sister, rejected by friends, threw herself on the bed, crying uncontrollably. While to us children such events might have felt like the end of the world, they really weren’t at all.
Fast forward to my own motherhood days when two children fought over which job was harder, protesting “Life isn’t fair!”; the boys’ playful wrestling inevitably degenerated into a serious fight; our two-year-old painted the brick fireplace before church while wearing his Sunday clothes; a couple years later, the same child balked at going to church at all (until he could wear more comfortable shoes); another child rubbed butter and poured milk into the carpet before I found the mess; my son blamed me for an unfinished project; our daughter, rejected by friends, was inconsolable; I added to the heat of my children’s senseless arguments; I threw myself on my bed, in tears and exasperated; I backed into another car in my own driveway—twice! Some days I might have wished the end of the world would come, but no such luck.
With the possible exception of “9-11,” the day the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked with airplanes, I have yet to see any crisis or disaster—be it small or large, private or public—have the power to bring the world to a halt, let alone to an end. In fact, so far never in all of recorded history has that ever happened. No, the human spirit is too strong, too indomitable, and all troubles will shrink with time. So, as long as human hearts keep beating and hoping, the world will go on.