Mrs. Miniver "carrying on" in her bomb shelter.
As I flipped through the pages of my journal this morning to find where I last left off writing, my eyes caught a quote. I had copied the words from a review that is printed on the back of my pink, first edition copy of the book Mrs. Miniver. The reviewer praised the book as:
“Little masterpieces of gentle humanity.”
Mrs. Miniver was published in 1940, when the British were in the thick of WWII. Times there were difficult, but the book doesn’t focus on the darkness and the trouble. And not doing so is not avoidance. On the contrary, Mrs. Miniver is determined to “keep calm and carry on” as the famous British wartime poster encouraged citizens to do. In the midst of troubling times, she refuses to buckle and over-fret. She focuses on beauty and goodness, and lives with joy.
I love Mrs. Miniver for her gracious, warm, appreciative, beauty-seeking domesticity. I think, at first glance, the vignettes in the book can seem trivial and superficial. Is an entire chapter describing Mrs. Miniver’s vacillation as to whether or not she should buy the pretty, more expensive journal over the less expensive and less attractive, but entirely serviceable, journal really worth the space it possesses in the book? And is there really any importance to her sentimentality over the staircase bannister or her nostalgia over the old car that was replaced?
I think it would be easy to read the book and miss the bigger story. Mrs. Miniver realizes that the little things in life matter. She gives significance to the ordinary. She shows that warmth and beauty matter. That making a welcoming, hospitable, comfortable home matters. That flowers in a vase on the table matter. That tea in front of the fireplace matters. That giving warm attention to that child’s stories matters. That doing little tasks with great love matters. That all of the little details of everyday life are lovely and have weight and importance.
Mrs. Miniver has a spirit of graciousness and gratitude, which gives her an ability to delight in the everyday. And mostly importantly, she realizes that it is this irrepressibly positive, hopeful spirit that battles against the powers and forces that would darken our world and undo us.
The hopeful, appreciative spirit of Mrs. Miniver can be cultivated by all of us. It is essentially up to us to choose our daily—minute by minute—attitude, and if we will choose to be grateful, to see how much we have rather than what we don’t have, to see what is lovely in our lives rather than what is plaguing and exhausting us, to pay attention to little gifts and beauties, to believe that God is both Sovereign and Loving over and in our lives, we will be happier and more content. We will have vision, faith, and hope to carry us through dark times. We will also have Love to lighten that darkness, for ourselves and for others.
This demeanor is the atmosphere that goes with us, and this atmosphere affects everyone who comes near. I’ve always been inspired by what Bishop Moule said of his mother: “Her feet brought light into a room.” Do my feet usher in Light and warmth and cheer and hope? Do I spread joy?
If so, my life, like Mrs. Miniver’s can be made up of “little masterpieces of gentle humanity” where “the eternal is framed in domesticity.” For me, this always means, does my life help others to see the Light and Love of Jesus?