My grandfather successfully served in World War II yet never lifted a weapon.
Much like today, people were confused, uncertain, and struggling to make sense of their surroundings. And while his war – and the fear of a terrorizing invasion is vastly different from avoiding a deadly virus – he played in an important role helping people get through to next sunrise.
My grandfather, a father to 4 girls and too old to serve in the military, fought the Battle of Britain with the limited tools God gave him – a singing voice and empathetic urge to bring smiles to people’s faces.
Wars can be won and lost at home. Battlefield victories pale in comparison to the collective spirit of those back home. Without a shared purpose or vision, the pain of war can erode the mortar holding together the foundational bricks of the people.
My grandfather was generously known as an entertainer. Nothing professional, but always willing to lead a song or tell a story at the pubs dotting the Scotland and English landscapes. When I think of him, I picture him standing on a chair, belting out traditional folk songs, or telling stories to workers coming off a shift at the local shipbuilding port.
The government split my mother and her family apart during the war, scattering them across different towns as not to allow a single bomb to erase an entire family. And while the sisters lived on rural farms, my grandparents were assigned to work the underground trains in London.
As German bombers scorched the skies, sirens would send people underground for cover. And tunnels beneath the cities became a strategic fall out shelters for Londoners. It was in those musty caverns my grandfather fought the war.
With the muffled sounds of the nightly bombings dripping from above, he would take to a song to lift the spirits of those squatting against walls. My grandfather’s charge was to transport people away from pain and fear and to one free of bombs dropping from the skies above.
I recall the stories of how he would be singing and elevating his voice as the noise above sought to compete as if they knew he was fighting against them. In my imagination – the ones created while hearing the stories told to me as a child – his voice echoes down dark caverns while hundreds of people cover themselves and small children from dust and fragments of falling stone.
As an adult, I now understand my imagination colors these stories in romance, but the key elements remain. His job was to do whatever he could to elevate people’s spirits during a period of great despair and uncertainty. And although never issued a weapon, his tools moved people to want to see the next sunrise.
Today’s world is uncertain. We don’t know what we are dealing with or for how long. But the lessons of my grandfather still apply. We need to keep our spirits up, focus on coming together, and know – if we have the grit – we will see tomorrow’s sunrise.