I am mindful that I can affect the shape of my life by choosing carefully the people that I spend time around. If a book or movie turns out to be about people who are mean or small-minded or boring, I ponder whether I really want to finish it.
I have a collection of books that I re-read, like eating comfort food, when I need to spend time around people who are cheerful, brave, persevering, humorous, tolerant, wise — that is, in addition to the time I spend with my husband, children, and real friends.
I’ve been re-reading D. E. Stevenson’s series about Mrs. Tim for the last week or two. Mrs. Tim is an army wife in England from the late 1930’s through the late 1940’s. The first book actually grew out of the author’s diaries that she lent to a friend who wanted to know what life as the spouse of an army officer was like. The friend and her husband found the diaries so interesting and entertaining that they urged her to publish them. She pepped up her first set of diaries to make a book about a fictional character, Hester Christie — married to Captain then Major Tim Christie. The second book was based on her war-time diaries and required almost no pepping up because as she puts it, “there was enough pep already in my diary for half a dozen books.”
The last two books occur after the war when Major Tim was stationed in Egypt and Hester was left to manage alone — her children are both in boarding school except for holidays. In the third book, she works as a general dogsbody in a hotel, where she observes and participates in several stories of life being put back together after the war. In this book, Hester has an interesting discussion with her good friend, Brigadier Tony Morley about immortality. Tony had just finished a long conversation with a minister who had given a good sermon.
“Mr. Weir knew at once that I was really interested and came halfway to meet me. When people go halfway to meet each other something happens — something important.”
“Yes — but what is it?” I ask with interest.
“You give a bit of yourself and receive a bit of the other fellow, and you are both richer. … That’s one reason why it’s worthwhile to be alive,” continues Tony. “It’s a sort of immortality we can all achieve.”
“Yes. We all want to achieve immortality. We all want to leave our mark upon the world. What use is it to have lived if we leave nothing behind us when we die. One way to achieve immortality is to have children, another is to write or paint — but not everybody can achieve offspring or works of art.”
“I’m beginning to see.”
“It’s easy,” declares Tony. “if we go about the world giving bits of ourselves to people we meet . . . it’s worthwhile having lived . . . we leave something behind us which goes on–and on.”
I love these books because they are about the ordinary heroism of everyday people, finding ways to get along in their own particular times. Their times included all-out war, but they still squabbled about how to spend the money allocated to the officer wives to run the Christmas party — how much should go for decorations, how much for children’s gifts. Hester is observant and laughs kindly at herself and others.
These books may still be on the shelves of your public library or through Inter-Library Loan, and in a pinch they are available from Amazon.