BY-WAYS - 10/28/43 - To Our Boys in the Service

Across the miles - to your training base, As God - with sacrificial love
Or across the vast, deep sea, - Gave us His Prince of Peace,
To the ice-bound hut, or the tropic swamp; So you make untold sacrifice,
To the gates of the enemy. - That war and hate may cease.
To the farthest outpost we stretch out We'll keep our Christmas candles lit
Our hands, to draw you home; And think of you with pride;
Our hearts reach out, to bring you cheer - With hope that you will bring world peace
No matter where you roam. Before next Christmas-tide.


Having so many of our boys overseas sets us to thinking about Christmas very early, doesn't it? The deadline for mailing packages to the army boys is already far behind us. And now we must think of the Christmas greetings. The above is a feeble but sincere attempt to express my own sentiments regarding these brave boys. It was written at the request of the Service Committee of our church, who thought that a home talent poem might have a little more meaning for our boys than a printed form. However, the committee could not agree on the type of poem to be sent. Our associate pastor, who serves in an advisory capacity, liked this one. Mary Baldwin, another of those quiet little angels of service, who can be counted on to tell you the honest truth, said it wouldn't go down in history as a great poem, but it would do. But Doc Story, the chairman of this committee, and the Bob Hope type, said it wouldn't do at all. Some of those men, he said, through no choice of their own, have desk jobs, and will feel foolish about 'untold sacrifice.' Write something light and cheerful. Well, I thought - and thought - often, in the still watches of the night - about those boys. Many of them so terribly young; many of them so homesick. I couldn't possibly write in a light and flippant vein. There was not other way but to write an individual poem or bit of verse to each boy or man, to let him know we are thinking about him personally. Since there are 185 of them, with more being added all the time, it seemed like a tremendous task. But it's such a soul-satisfying job, that the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. The hardest part is the telephoning (you know how I loathe the telephone) and learning all about these men, many of whom - most of whom - I do not know. If possible, I contact the mother; and there you reach the heart of the boy. Oh, I tell you, there is a terrific tug at the heartstrings when you hear of a boy that is sent, as a spare part, all alone from England to north Africa, or is languishing in a hospital in New Guinea. The spare parts are the boys who cannot stand the rigors of real combat, and must do odd jobs, or any kind of job away from the combat drills. For a certain homesick boy, whose mother told me he was sent - away from all his comrades - to the Mail Distribution Department of a war theater in North Africa, I wrote this little verse - to go out on a wing and a prayer -

As you sort all the much-looked-for letters from home

To the boys and the men over there,
We hope you discover this message for you -
For it's letting you know that we care.
So here's to a home-loving boy far away;
And though we are oceans apart,
We know you will hear our sweet Christmas bells ring,
For Christmas is found in the heart.

Out at Camp Haan, in the hot Death Valley of California, is a gentle lad, of tender years, whom I love. And I love his mother dearly. Bill Cope has been nurtured on love and kindness, and he hates war. Sometimes he can hardly stand it. For him there must be that inspiring message from Dr. Ralph Hutchison to his departing boys at W. J., and this crude, but earnest, home-made poem:

In the hot desert sands of our Valley of Death
Our Bill meets the grueling best.
Of all the fine lads in our wonderful church
He is certainly one of the best.
This training is foreign to his gentle ways;
Such orders we long to revoke, -
But, dear Bill, 'tis the lash of the wind and the storm
That develops the sturdiest oak.

Christmas Greetings and love from .....

This gives you an idea. And the reason I'm telling you about it is that I want to offer you my services - as a labor of love - if I can be of any service to you, and to any of your loved ones, giving their all that we may have liberty and peace. I am grateful for this work, for I have been forced to give up my war work. Who was it said that when one door closes, another opens?

And let's say Amen to the negro's prayer, quoted in the Reader's Digest for November: Oh, Lord, help me to understand that you ain't gwine to let nuthin' come my way that you and me together can't handle.

Florence B. Taylor,
4501 Lilac Road,
South Euclid, Ohio

Next - 11/4/43 - Salute to a Soldier

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