When color TV came to our basement in the late 60s, it brought with it the bloody reality of the nightly news of Vietnam. The war had been safely gray up to that point.
In 1968 I was just seven and in 2nd grade but “Hanoi” and “Saigon” were familiar words to me, though without significance. Those were the days of only evening news broadcasts unless Walter Cronkite “interrupted regular programming for a special news bulletin” so that’s what would be on our TV each night. There was no other opportunity during the day to get news unless it was radio. In my mind there are images of running and smoke and guns, yelling in languages I could not understand, and often crying children. Still, I had no grasp. Nor should I have. War is not, above all, for children. It was only when our class wrote to soldiers and hoped for replies would the war become more personal, less gray around the edges of my perceptions.
Marty, my soldier, wrote back to me. Whether he was just a nice guy who felt a connection with a scraggly nearsighted kid in Colorado, or whether his C.O. politely encouraged it, or even if he was without anyone else on the planet who cared enough to send a letter, I didn’t regard it as important. I was one of a half dozen kids in the class to hear back. And . . . And . . . And . . . he sent me a doll!
Sadly, today, 54 years later, was the doll’s last day.
I was rummaging around in a tub of infernal, eternal, ongoing, never ending, bottomless memories and out she came in horrifying pieces. She’d held it together pretty well up to this point so I’m not sure what brought on the calamity. If you go for spooky Halloweeny type stuff, you’re gonna love this picture.
So I gathered up her jigsaw puzzle self and gingerly stacked bits on top of themselves, hoping the balancing act would keep itself together long enough for another photo. Almost didn’t make it, but at least you get the idea.
Of course there is no way of knowing about Marty. We wrote a couple of letters until the novelty wore off. Or until . . .
But that’s the way of war. There is a lot of not knowing. There is a lot of novelty wearing off. Even today.
What then? How do we stay on top of what is happening? Those of us who are far removed from the military or its way of life have even more of a tendency to let time and distance slip in and detach us from hearing about what’s going on “over there” unless we make a determined effort to stay on top of it. What’s more, the news cycle in 2022 is E.N.D.L.E.S.S. which makes us tune out just to stay sane. And the definition of “news” is, quite clearly, laughable. So, do we keep the peace in our brains and spirits by demanding silence in the home, turning off media and its constant waterfall of outrage over W.H.A.T.E.V.E.R. ? That’s a personal choice.
If you desire to stay informed and not grow exhausted and disconnected from peoples’ pain and suffering, you have to work at it. It makes me mad a little because when I learned the definition of “media” in junior high it included something about delivering information to me. Now I have to go out and get it myself like grocery shopping and run it through a sieve of discernment, consulting more than one or two sources just to make sure it’s not drivel. So there you have it.
At the top of my list are our friends in Ukraine. I have dropped the ball. They are still in bomb shelters.
I have grown weary. They passed up weary a long time ago.
Typically I keep these pages loose and light. Not today. I am burdened, dear ones. There is beauty in this world and I am a proponent of seeing it as often as possible, so while it goes against my grain somewhat, I am saying that we as a Christian community can and should do better (maybe you certainly are and I am tunnel-visioned) to keep our eyes and hearts and thus our prayers and assistance focused on the suffering and strife as best we can. Not to say it should consume us. Not at all. It must not be forgotten, however.
That said, please accept my apology if you have stayed the course better than I. If, though, you need encouragement to ramp up your efforts to watch and learn and support by prayer or assistance, I hereby give you that! I have needed it myself. And, of course, there are other hot spots around the world, not only Ukraine, and certainly in my own country, where darkness has run amok.
As I remember today the little doll mailed across the world by a soldier, I am contemplating all military, men and women across the globe, risking all for a cause. And, of course, the multitudes caught in the middle. Each and every one has a story. A history. A desire to live. The Christian community, whether we agree or disagree with one another or with the cause, can give a cup of cold water. A prayer.
We know the Prince of Peace.
We sing Hallelujah no matter what.
We take that message. Outside our homes. Into the world. From our safety into battle.
Here is a song and some links if you are so moved. They are only suggestions from my own perspective and reality as I am part of the Church of the Nazarene denomination. Certainly there are others out there. I stand by the reputation of these.
Ukraine Crisis-Nazarene Compassionate Ministries
Nazarene Child Sponsorship
It is good to be with you.
Take care. Be of good cheer.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
One thought on “Pen Pal Marty”
Oh dear Molly I feel the same as you do…maybe a little worse because I am older! I remember in high school, every morning over the loudspeaker (old fashioned term!) would come the morning school announcements including former students who had died in Vietnamese Nam. The ones who did make it back home still struggle with memories of the horror. War was never part of God’s plan!
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