Friday, June 29, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

I've watched some hard times unfold among the people I know and love these past few weeks. One of my friends lost her husband in a tragic bike accident. He was thirty seven years old, and the youngest of his three children is two. I have a friend who had her kidney removed because it had a cancerous tumor inside of it. Her baby is eleven months old, and while she is healing from the surgery she can't pick him up. I know several other families battling various types of cancer, I have siblings worrying about job security, half the state of Colorado is on fire, and I haven't seen my children in almost three weeks.

It is sometimes difficult not to feel that there are Hard Times in every direction. And even if you're not in the middle of your own Hard Time, it's difficult not to squint into the horizon and wonder, What's it gonna be next

But the other day I came across this poster:


image credit
This poster was issued by the British government during World War II. It was pasted all over London during the very worst of the German bombing. I cannot imagine living through that particular hard time. Londoners put their children on buses and sent them into the countryside to live with strangers for the duration of the war. When the bomb sirens began to wail, Londoners moved to underground shelters or subway tunnels, and spent the night listening to bombs explode above, wondering if their homes would be intact when the sun rose. My English friend Karen's dad, who was a young boy living in London during the war, once told me that a bomb exploded taking off part of their house. You would think that the trauma of losing part of their house would have been the worst of it, but he confided in me that as a boy he was more distressed that the fresh egg he'd been about to eat was lost in the rubble. Their family hadn't had fresh eggs in months.

Given these circumstances, the words "keep calm and carry on" are almost hilarious. On the one hand you might wonder how emotionally constipated a government must be to plaster this advice all over the city as the sky is raining down bombs. But this quote from Wikipedia offers another explanation: The poster's popularity has been attributed to a "nostalgia for a certain British character, an outlook" according to the Bagehot column in The Economist, that it "taps directly into the country's mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall."


Unshowily brave! Have we forgotten that way of thinking? Have we become so accustomed to our comforts and entitlements that we feel as if we're going to lose it when our world takes an unjust turn? 


My little family's travails this summer are incredibly modest compared to the grief that is encroaching upon the lives of some of our friends and loved ones. And yet there is no comparing heartache. There is no scale that can discern between our individual Hard Times. What is the great equalizer is how we respond. I may be worried about my unborn child. I may feel frozen and disoriented in a life without children, work, responsibilities, or mobility. And yet there is the poster, fixed firmly in my mind. Keep Calm and Carry On. Sometimes that's all there is and frankly, that little phrase makes me feel better. We should all be a little more brave.



1 comment:

  1. Hey Lauren- Thanks for thinking of me :) It was good to come to the shower last week. It gave me an opportunity to be social and "Carry On."

    ReplyDelete

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