I am sitting in the telephone center at Camp Kilmer. It is quiet and comfortable here. I just called Harry and told him how things are. He is such a good boy. To be in his house was like being at home. We spent beautiful hours together. We spoke about the real things as far as we had realized them in ourselves. When I returned from my visits to the Herbert’s home around midnight, Harry was waiting up for me. We then had a glass of milk and a piece of cake together. And after that we softly talked about what was in our hearts. Very great have been the blessings. The furlough is over but I am not sad. We must go on and on. We must go to new places and meet new people that we become evermore certain of God’s spirit in all creation.
Yesterday noon and afternoon I spent with Aunt Jennie and Jettel. I brought them six roses and a cactus plant for Aunt Jennie’s birthday. You should have seen the joy my little visit and flowers brought to the two old ladies. The joy echoes right back into my heart. I had my noon meal with the two old ladies. They made everything so nice for me. Aunt Jettel has such sweetness in her face.
God loves all his children. It is so wonderful how His love reaches the millions of souls living in the big city.
The evening I spent with Clay. It had rained a little before Clay walked with me to the subway station. The air was so good. We discontinued our walking to look at a wonderful view and breathe the good air. To our left stood the Statue of Liberty, below and in front some big ships were sleeping in the harbor. Straight ahead and across the East River the ferries were pulling out to and returning from Staten Island. Then there were the big downtown buildings scraping the midnight sky. Except for some few souls, the city was asleep. There was peace in the two hearts who witnessed this spectacle.
From what I have learned, we will not be long at this camp. A week’s stay here might be a good guess; then we will sail across the big sea. Please do not send me any mail. I have to put on a return address because of regulations.
I am happy in the thought that you are thinking of me. I called Ruth once more last night. She was very sweet. She said, “God bless you” as I said, “Good-bye.” That is wonderful.
I would like to tell you of a little idea which materialized in a conversation with dear Harry. Let us say a mechanic builds a car. It takes him a long time to put everything together and make the right adjustments. When the mechanic has finished his work successfully, he will be quite happy. He will take good care of the car because he built it. When anything goes wrong, he will know how to repair it because he put all the parts together. If a customer has bought the car and anything goes wrong, he will have to see a mechanic. And it is best to see the mechanic who built the car.
There exists a similar relationship between our bodies and minds and its Craftsman. When anything goes wrong in our lives, let us go to the Craftsman who built this body and this life. He has brought our life into existence. He will know what adjustments are necessary. He has clients working for Him, but clients are not as wise as the Master. If we want to be sure of being healed soon and right, we must go to God. Most of us are sick in some ways. If we want to be healed, then we should go to the builder of our lives.
I will not say good-bye, but good-night. We are not apart because we love each other. I have a nice bed right in front of an open window. The stars that look into my window also look into yours. God is next to all of us. It was a joy to write you and it is always a joy to be together with you. We will sail the great ocean of life together.
July 5, 1953
My dear Mother, my dear Father and my dear Brother,
Is it the thirteenth or the fourteenth that you, my dear Mother, have another birthday? It does not matter too much but maybe you could clue me in. I would like to be as close to the truth as possible. I have the feeling, though, that on both days my thoughts will be going out to you.
I have spent wonderful hours in my new camp already. Friday evening – the first evening of my stay here – I found a new brother. No, I should not and shall not say I found him. God brought us together because it was written in the stars that we should meet. We met under the stars about eleven o’clock. We spoke a few words to each other and we knew we had found each other.
It is so easy to love those who love us but that is not enough. We must also learn to love those who do not yet love us. What greater treasures are there in life than to have friends and to have God as our best friend? It is a great joy to meet a searching soul so unexpectedly. But really, all souls are searching. Everyone is sincerely interested to find joy in life. Everyone who is in search of joy is in search of God. And we should learn to assist willingly all those on the path.
Yesterday evening I also spent a little while in church. I could say that I sat alone in church trying to pray and meditate. But if I would say that, I would not be saying the truth. God was sitting and is sitting by my side. He is really my best friend because He never leaves me. It is wonderful to have someone who listens to our problems and who has the remedies to cure all diseases.
This morning I went to the Catholic service. I spent a wonderful hour in the church. Each hour of peace in our life is a heavenly gift. God does not ask for a fee for this gift. He only asks for our love and our hearts. God does not reach into His pocketbook and say, “I can spare so much today. You’ll have to make it cover the expenses somehow.” God gives to us according to our needs and more.
I reached into my pocket yesterday and pulled out some change. I questioned if I could spare what I had in my hand. The little voice said, “Don’t figure with pennies.”
When I came out of the church, I met an old friend. I think you might know him. He is the boy for whom you ordered Unity Magazine. He is going to the Panama Canal Zone. It is so nice to meet old friends. When we once have found God, every being will be like our best friend whom we have not seen for many years. Then I met another friend. We talked together for a long time. Another bridge was built that bombs cannot destroy. A bridge that connects two hearts was silently built as we talked about God. We enjoyed our lunch together. We bought a little lunch separately at the P.X. Unknowingly each one bought what we both enjoy. He bought fig bars and I bought raisin cookies. It was a good meal, especially because we dined together.
There was a boy sitting next to us for quite a while. We exchanged a few words with him also, but he either seemed to be mostly dreaming or listening.
After the meal we said good-bye. My friend continued to write a letter and I returned to the barracks and my bunk. I was beginning to write you when a visitor came. The boy who came said, “I have found you.” My heart was touched when I heard the boy and recognized him. It was the boy who had been sitting next to us dreaming and maybe listening. He came to me for seemingly no special reason. We started to talk a little and I had the feeling that there was a loneliness in his heart. I tried to be a brother to my friend as best as I knew how. It was the first time that the boy had been away from home. While he was in his basic training, he could go home almost every weekend. Now he was on his way to Europe and home would be very far away. I tried to tell the boy where our real home is located. I gave him some of your dear letters to read, Mother. And I also gave him Papa’s last letter. These wonderful letters from you touched the boy’s heart. I think there were tears in his eyes. He said, after reading the letters, “I think I will write to my Mother.” I asked the boy if he had a picture of his mother. He showed me a picture. She has a simple but so beautiful face that I am not very surprised that her son feels lonely. The boy asked me if I was going to the mailbox today. He asked me to come to his barrack when I went and we would then go together.
Many boys also come to this camp on their way back from Europe. All the boys I have talked with came from Germany. One boy was stationed for a while in Stuttgart. He knew where Kerner St. 39 was (It was probably the address of Peter’s sister Sonni). I had to smile when he told me this.
It is much better to live in the present. If we live each day as best we can and let God provide and plan for tomorrow, great calmness will come into our life. Anxious expectations fill my heart sometimes as I think of the voyage and the days that lie ahead. Then there is need for prayer and meditation to find calmness. It is a wonderful schooling. God plans our curricula, not us.
The night has unexpectedly slipped in-between the previous sentence and this one. I was invited to work in the kitchen at night. I mostly took the eyes out of the potatoes and peeled onions. Do you know that I could peel onions after a while and not cry anymore? The work was nice because we could feel God near us. We worked from about seven in the evening till four in the morning, and then I slept until about seven-thirty in the morning.
We were permitted to sleep till twelve; but I felt not tired. So I got up, took a shower and now I am enjoying to write to my dear Ones. If God does not want you to be tired, you will be awake and strong.
I would like to write down the prayer my friend gave me for you. I like the prayer and I think you will like it, too. You are probably familiar with it. It is the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.
| Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.|
Where there is hatred – let me sow love.
Where there is injury – pardon.
Where there is doubt – faith.
Where there is despair – hope.
Where there is darkness – light.
Where there is sadness – joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled – as to console;
To be understood – as to understand.
To be loved – as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
We do not have to go job hunting anymore once we are able to feel the truth of this prayer in our hearts. My friend says that when he prays, he asks God to teach him to live those prayers.
When I was taking the eyes out of the potatoes, I heard the boys complaining about the big job that was to be done. I might have been guilty of silently complaining, too. In fact, I was. I thought to myself, we complain when we have a little job like this. That is not right. God never complains although his task of growing the potatoes is very much greater than ours.
Dear Mother, with this letter may I wish you happy birthday? May you feel God ever nearer with each new day. And may I also tell you, my dear Papa, that I will be thinking of you and that I am thinking of you now. I might be on the sea or I might be on land. If I cannot reach you by letter for your birthday, I will still be with you. I try to think of you often. It is not hard to think of you, for I love you with my heart. If there is love flowing out to anyone, it is really God’s love.
Of current events I cannot tell you anything new. Current events are really not important because they do not bring one peace of mind. Do not, or rather, let us not be anxious to know news but, rather, to know God and His peace.
May all your days – my Father’s and my Mother’s and my dear Brother Hellmut’s – be filled with the sunshine of God.
May God bless you and everyone.
Your sailor and soldier boy, Peter, Dieter
Please thank God if this Letter has brought you happiness.
July 8, 1953
My dear Ones,
The moment you are thinking of me, you have sent a letter to me. Don’t be sad that you cannot write me for a few days. We are really becoming ever nearer. Often only when our avenues are cut off, we will travel on the inner pathways of light.
I am spending wonderful days. God is so kind, so very kind. Try to find and know God today. Each morning when we rise, we should say, “Today I will try again and I will work a little more overtime for God than the day before.” It is the overtime that counts so much. Twenty minutes of extra work for God brings more joy than a whole day of regular work. That was an experience I had yesterday.
Don’t think about sailing dates and deadlines. To think of God brings much more peace to our hearts.
Your boy loves you,
July 11, 1953
My dear Father and dear Mother and dear Brother,
I am coming home to you now. It is quiet in the barracks. All the boys have gone out, and now there is only God and myself left. But that is all right and good. It is Saturday evening. The sky is growing more colorful as the sun moves closer to the horizon. I am alone but really not lonely because God is here. If I should be lonely ever, it is not because I am not at home, but because I have not learned to feel God near me. So, instead of wishing to be in a certain place in California, I will pray to God that I may be able to feel His presence.
This morning God opened my eyes a little further again. There were clouds in my heart previous to the time the sun broke through. And my body was tired although I had slept many hours the previous night. What was the matter? Suddenly, I became aware of a silent conversation in my soul. “Is it better to be an engineer, dentist or lawyer and not feel God near you, or would you rather be a street-sweeper and feel His presence?”
I remember the times I worked in the kitchen, cleaned garbage pails, washed pots, and cleaned stoves. I was very happy working because now I know that God was near. Or, to be more correct, I could partly feel His presence because He is always near. And I remember the times I had wonderful gardening jobs, but it was hard for me to work because I could not feel God’s presence.
I compared and weighed these two experiences and I came to one conclusion. I’d rather sweep the streets all my life and feel His presence than to have any other job and, even though it should be the best one in the world, not feel Him near me.
Papa, your words of many years ago rang in my mind that morning. You said, “I do not care if you become street-sweepers, so long as you are happy.” That is what counts. And also, if we cannot feel His nearness at times but work with the desire to please Him, that will give us the strength to wait patiently for His coming. God showed me that to be near Him was our greatest joy. It is never filling but ever satisfying to be near God.
At noon I had some delicious pineapple juice as part of my meal. It tasted so good to me that I wished the whole world – all people – could have a glass of this. But then the little voice inside said, “But how much more wonderful would it be if all Beings could drink the divine Nectar that never fills but ever satisfies?”
Shortly after the wonderful experience of the morning, I spoke to my good friend Paul. I told him what had happened and, in talking together, wonderful things were revealed to us. Paul and I felt God near us and it seemed as if Paul’s bed had become an altar. I was touched by Paul’s great love. He gave me his crucifix which he had used in his daily prayers. His love touched me deeply because he gave so great a part of his heart to me. I realized then that it is the love we give which counts. We can give a little wheat seed away, and we can make someone very happy if true love is attached to it. The greater and truer our love becomes, the ever smaller an object will we be able to attach our love to. Until one day when our love becomes so pure and strong that we do not need to attach it to anything.
Visible objects are only temporary aids of giving expression to our love. The rose petals and locket are only temporary aids to remind me of Master’s love and protection. The crucifix was left to the world for the same reason. Those things help to build the bridge and they help us build bridges between the seen and the unseen world.
For the first time yesterday, I felt the freedom which can be gained through the way of the Cross. I had the feeling that the crucifix was like an ancient map to a very great treasure. It was like an old map which held the key to the greatest lost gold mine. At first, it was hard to find your own position on land and then find that place on the mystic map. But he who searches earnestly will find his way. And once you have caught a small glimpse of the Truth, you will say to yourself, “How could I have been so blind” It is all so plain!”
The crucifix in itself holds the key to freedom. It is like a map which Jesus left for us. I can no longer doubt that He was on earth and has now ascended into Heaven. Once we learn to give up our life consciously for God, we will have found freedom. Our life is the sum of all our desires. Our life is the greatest treasure. When we can give away our greatest treasure consciously to God (from where it came), we will be free.
Our body is really only like our house; it gives us temporary lodging. As we walk consciously out of our earthly house, so should we learn to walk out of our earthly body. It takes effort and sacrifice and help from above to give up our body like Christ did. He has shown us the way, so let us try to follow. We can learn to free ourselves from our body through little sacrifices at first. Only by sacrificing something that is dear to us do we gain freedom. We should try to say no to an ice-cream, a cup of coffee, a meal or something like that. That food we did not eat might have built two or three extra cells of our body, but how much harder must it be to sacrifice all the cells of our body?
We cannot do this job alone. Unless God will help us, we are helpless. We are like an empty vessel without Him and filled with a lot of nonsense if we look to the world for aid. I don’t like the word nonsense. But without Him, we are nothing.
I do not understand how I deserve such great blessings as have come to me since I joined the army. The help from Reverend Bernard and Master and God and the Saints is becoming more real and more important and necessary for my life every day. Prayer is really a very great force. If someone prays for you, you are receiving a great blessing.
My dear Father, may your coming birthdays see an ever greater enfoldment of God in you. Your life is still so long because you are not saying anymore, “Tomorrow I will meditate and look for God.” Now you are saying, “Now I am looking for you, my God. Please come to me and light my house.” Your letters are showing that many bulbs are burning already.
When you receive this letter, I will probably be moving out to sea. We ship out probably on the fifteenth. Bremerhaven will be our first destination, if God so wills it. Would you please put the little offering silently in the basket for me? “You are digging for gold,” says Reverend Bernard, and Reverend Bernard is helping me dig.
Your boy forever and ever,
July 13, 1953
My dear Ones,
Please do not feel anything is wrong if my letters are not coming in so punctually. You probably can feel that I have been spending wonderful days. But it seems to me now that I have to listen a lot more deeply before I write.
Tonight Santa Claus came to me. When I opened my AWOL bag (Peter probably meant his duffle bag), I found fruit and cake from my friend Paul in it. What a blessing to have such friends.
If you write me one letter to the address I give you, I might just receive it when I step off the boat in Germany. My address will then change again. So please, do not send me more than one letter.
Your boy loves you.
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean
July 17 to July 24, 1953
My dear Comrades,
We are moving onward and eastward steadily. God must have had a good reason for creating so much water. I wonder what His reason was. Such a journey is good because you have much time to wonder. Our own world is really a very small world. How much territory can we encompass with one sweep of our imagination? I do not think it is much larger than the size of a pea. Why is it that we can think of so little when the world is so very large? It is because we are in a prison. It is a prison created by our likes and dislikes. Our likes tie us and our dislikes separate us so that we are really living on an island with only very little contact with the world.
How can we expand this little world of ours that it will become more like the world in which God lives? We must cultivate an equal love for everyone and everything. God has no favorites. He loves the sinner as He loves the saint; and so should we. He feeds the criminal as well as the saint, and so should we. We should love the rain as much as the sun. We should love bread as much as cake. We should love suffering as much as joy. Only one thing we should love more than anything else: the Creator of all creations.
When someone sees a beautiful painting, he will sometimes remark, “I would love to meet the painter.” This is because he somehow feels that the painter must be greater in wisdom and talents than his art. The painter will be able to show you how he painted the picture. If we want to learn about the mysteries of the world, our best teacher is the Creator. It is often difficult to meet a Michelangelo but if we persist, we cannot fail. We must search for Him in every face and every flower. He has the habit of revealing Himself in the most unexpected ways. He might be behind the patience and humbleness of a street-sweeper. He might be behind the endurance of a very ill and crippled child. The type of job does not signify the greatness of the person. But the way a person carries out his duty will reveal his greatness. Is he patient and neat, willing and cheerful in his work?
I spent part of the day scraping rusty paint off the boat. The job itself was not important. But then again, it was important because it showed me how I am lacking the qualities I mentioned above. No job is a lowly or a princely job. We make the job what it is. We do not need to wear the robe of a priest to be a priest. We do not have to wear the clothes of a prince to be a prince. If we live like a prince, then we are a prince. We do not have to wear the words of God on our lips to be a preacher. If we live the Word of God, then we are a preacher.
The fundamental course for public speaking is a course in right living. I am pointing to myself as I am writing this. To speak of something which you have not experienced yourself is like reading a story that someone else has written. First-hand information is much more inspiring than second-hand information. We’d rather talk to someone who has lived with the African tribes than someone who reads about them. We’d rather talk to someone who knows God than someone who has read about God. It is hard to imagine how large this world is just by looking at a map. How can we possibly imagine how much water the blue on a map represents? Only after we travel for many days and see nothing but water from morning till night does our soul get a glimpse of God’s great creation.
Dear Mother, the day before I left Camp Kilmer I received four letters. One of them was from my Mother. The mail made me very happy. The letters were like a teacher. I would like to explain. I was standing in a line which found its terminal point in the cafeteria. Most of my thoughts also found their terminal point in the cafeteria. Suddenly I remembered the unopened letters in my pocket. I had the idea that I would like to read part of the mail while waiting in line. No sooner had I started reading the kind letters than all thoughts of food were gone. And in their stead were the kind thoughts of my friends. Once again, God showed me that when you bring the light, darkness has no room.
I remember another instance. One morning my dog-tag chain and the gold chain with the locket and rose petals were twisted together. While waiting in line for breakfast, I separated the two chains. Shortly after I had sat down, I finished the little task. Then I suddenly realized that God was showing me how we may, at first, be able to keep our minds on Him. This is the kindergarten stage. When our minds are so young, these material aids help very much to build the bridge between the seen and the unseen. God speaks to us daily. God is so anxious to get our attention. We, like God, must be anxious to discern His voice in every voice.
Dear Mother, you have asked me if I was taking this journey through life because I wanted to, or whether I was following this path because I had committed my intentions to other people? Mother, I am on this journey in search Truth because I am hungry for it. I am searching because I feel a real need to find a deeper meaning in life than to eat and drink and be merry. If no one in the world would know me, I would still feel compelled to find food for a hungry soul. Many people are alarmed about the starvation and great need which exists in the world. The physical hunger, I feel, is only a reflection of the great need and hunger of the soul. Only by satisfying the great hunger of the soul will we find the answer to man’s misery.
If I would give the boy next to me a cigarette and a piece of candy, his restlessness and hunger would not be satisfied. But if there would be a way for removing his desire to smoke and eat sweets, that deep-seated hunger would be stilled forever. If we try to find joy in the senses, we are engaged in the impossible task of filling a sieve with water.
I am hungry, dear Mother, and my brothers are also hungry. I am searching for the food that will satisfy. I do not know what got me started on this road. I am not blaming anyone for giving me the initial push. Rather, I will thank those who have shown me this road. I could not find a meaning in anything else.
There is a mistake, though, which I have made. I should live more in silence. People should not be told what we want to do. They should only receive the blessings of what we have actually done. It is of no benefit to you if I will tell you that I shall be home on a certain date. It might even fill you with anxious expectations to know in advance. God does not announce His coming years in advance. He will enter very unexpectedly into our consciousness one day.
Rock-a-my baby. There is a pleasant wind blowing and a clear blue sky above. What a little toy we are on this mighty ocean. How important and how wise we think ourselves to be. We think ourselves wise and do not even know why we are riding across the ocean. We do not even know why God has created the big oceans. We know so very little. How can we ever accept a diploma with a feeling accomplishment? I may truthfully say that I have forgotten most of my book-learning. We should not be working and learning for the sake of a diploma. A diploma would signify a termination point. Wisdom is infinite. We are going to school daily, whether we want to or not. If we don’t learn our lesson today – if we are truant – we come back to school that much more often.
The ride across the ocean is showing me how restless my mind is. I cannot sit still for long and watch the waves and think of God. But I am trying. Yesterday I tried for a while. I looked at the waves as they grew out of the sacrifice of another wave. Each wave only lived for an instant. As soon as the wave had grown to full size, it sacrificed itself that other waves might be born. The water which was in one wave might one day be spread through the whole ocean. I felt that the waves were showing man a true example of selfless love. I felt that we must become willing to sacrifice our lives unhesitatingly like the waves. In that way our consciousness may cover the whole ocean and the whole world.
If we do not strive diligently daily to do the best we can and to become more aware of the Truth, our faculties of perception will fall asleep. “To him that has, I will give more; to him that has not, I will take away what he has.” This is so true. I noticed that during those days on the ship when I occupied my hands and mind with nothing, I became very tired and lazy. Sleep would only make me more sleepy. I noticed that I was even too lazy sometimes to write or memorize a poem. And if I did not make the effort to write, my mind became very blank. I could not even sit on deck and simply smile.
Now it is Sunday afternoon, the fourth day of our journey. I am happy to be where I am and to have experienced what I have written you. I cannot forget these experiences so easily. You can tell a child that fire will burn you and that the burn will hurt. But not until the child’s hand has made contact with the flames will the child understand what you mean. If we could learn from books, we could save ourselves a lot of hard labor. Someone can point out the way for us, but the road we must walk ourselves.
This morning God let me taste the reality of His strength and joy. Two church services were given on the top deck under the clear blue sky. During the first service I was tired and was always falling asleep. My heart could not reflect the blueness of the sky. I stayed for the second service. During the second service a change came over me. My tiredness was gone in an instant and the joy of God filled my heart. It was not because of something I had eaten that this change took place. He showed me again, as so often before, how much we depend upon Him for all we are and hope to be. These little experiences build our faith strong. He is reminding us again where we can find the lasting peace and joy.
It is evening; it is a Monday evening. I am glad of spirit because this day has not been spent in complete idleness. Some boys are working together with the ship’s crew. I am among the boys. Today we chipped old paint off a tiny area of the boat. One does not have to be smart to do this job, but one needs patience. I was not tired this evening because I was of some little use.
I remember some days of the trip when I did not work at all. On these days I was tired in the evening and unhappy about the empty bank account. I imagine we will have similar feelings in the evening of our lives. In the end our once seemingly long life will only seem like one short day to us.
Yesterday evening I worked a little for a friend. That was the nicest part of the day. Before I went to bed, I went on the deck once more. The stars shone brightly, and their brightness found an echo in my heart because I had helped a friend. The moon built a silvery road up to heaven. God rewarded me very richly for the little helping hand I had extended.
Tonight I had a big surprise. A boy I did not even know offered me two candy bars. I do not want to love candy more than potatoes because our preferences will bring about suffering. But it was more the unexpected gift of love which made me happy.
Do you know that the more salt we put on our food, the more we will suffer? We must not only become even in our mind but also even in our taste. God has grown all food with an equally big love. He loves His beet and spinach plants as much as His strawberry plants.
The hands of the clock have made a few turns since the last sentence and this one. I have attended another church service in the middle of the ocean. We sang together and prayed together and then listened to a sermon. After the sermon, I looked over the ocean once more and then I leisurely prepared myself for bed. Now I am sitting on top of my bed – the beds are four stories high – and thinking of you. This boat is like a twin brother of the Ernie Pyle in physical features. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: My family and I immigrated to America from Germany in 1946 when I was 13 years old. The ship which we sailed on from Germany to America was the Ernie Pyle – P.D.L.)
Yesterday I read a prayer. It was like another clue to the ocean’s mystery. Our work will not be completed until the last one of God’s children has found rest. One wave cannot exist in the ocean by itself. We all have our life in the ocean. The suffering and struggle of one soul is the concern of everyone. In helping others, we are helping ourselves for we are all one.
For this day I will close my eyes now. It has been another good day. God is very kind. In the end everything always turns out so well. Now He is going to rock me gently to sleep.
Most of the boys are hoping that land will come soon because there seem so little to do on the ship. I am hoping that God may come to all of us.
I will wish you a good night, my dear fellow shipmates. We are always sailing together. How can anyone be separate in the ocean?
Jessie is a kind man silently working in the service of God. He is kind and does not know because it is his nature to be kind. If we think we are kind, we must ask God to teach us humility. Jessie works in the tool room of the shop but besides that, he is a helpful man and a general handyman. At all hours of the working day, the workers ask him for this and please to do that. And he is always ready to help. During the break-time, he sees to it that we boys get a cup of good coffee. He calls us in time for the meals and sees to it that we get fed right away. Jessie is a kind man that few people know about. But God knows. I have only seen a little bit of Jessie, but a man who is kind during one part of the day is sure to be kind during all parts of the day. God has many faithful workers who do good but say nothing about it.
Today the ocean was a source of strength for me. As long as I can remember, the ocean has been moving. And as long as you can remember, the waves have been forever rolling. Ever since people can remember, the ocean has been in motion. The little voice said, “God is forever present and forever working. Where there is movement, there must be a mover.” As yet we do not know God. But we know He is real because of the things He is doing. And as I was looking over the ocean, another ancient thought entered my mind, “You can read these same things in many places.”
I asked a friend why the Rosary was said so fast. He told me that it was because of the pressure of time. I thought about what he said. This morning the little voice said that rushing is a habit, not a necessity. As with other things, it is the same way. Worrying is a habit, not a necessity. We are doing more things out of habit than we probably realize. Habits are so easily formed but so hard to break.
I was speaking to a man who was smoking. He said that he had been smoking for seventeen years. He tried several times to free himself from the cigarette but as yet could not. He told me that he would gladly give five hundred dollars away if he could stop smoking.
Today, Tuesday, was a beautiful sunset. If you look at the light, there is little room for negative thoughts. It is wonderful to look at the light. It must be even more wonderful to be in that light.
The sun is shining high in the heavens. Everything is fully awake at 128 North La Jolla Avenue. Where we are traveling now this day – your birthday, my dear Papa – is nearing its end. There is about a six-hour difference between the little alarm clock standing on our blue kitchen table and the watches here on the boat. There are about 5,600 miles between us. But these figures don’t concern us very much because I love you and you love me. We have about 900 more miles to go before this little part of our journey is over.
We cannot measure the length of the journey in miles but in deeds of kindnesses done for those in need. You have traveled many earthly miles during your present stay in this world. Those earthly miles don’t register on our spiritual speedometer. Only when we expend effort ourselves are we covering distance. If we step into a car and let it take us to a distant city, we have usually not gone very far. We may say the car has gone far, and people say they are world travelers. Usually it is the boat or the plane that may honestly say such a thing. I have the feeling that you have covered more real miles while working at Aquarium Stock Company than you have covered while crossing the ocean.
Yesterday I went to another church service inside the ship and pretty near the water level. The minister told us something I liked very much. He said that this incident happened during one of his character guidance classes at Camp Roberts, California. During a class he asked this question, “Is there any one of you boys who would be willing to tell me everything or rather, who would be willing to tell the class everything that has taken place in his life?” One boy raised his hand. He asked the boy why he was so willing. The boy replied, “God knows everything about me, so I don’t care what people think about me.” I thought that was a wonderful way to feel. That boy was probably very humble.
Meanwhile, time has skipped by. It is evening on the following day. The coast of England is very clearly in front of us. Everybody seems to be very happy that there is land and the end of this journey is in sight. But our journey really does not end at Bremerhaven. Our journey will not end so soon, but it will end when we least expect it. I remember here the story that Reverend Bernard told. You know, the one where different men asked when they would find God.
This evening I thought what it is like to eat a piece of candy. It is like taking a warm shower when the weather is cold outside. As soon as you step out of the warm shower, you will freeze and be uncomfortable. As soon as the taste-thrill is gone, you will be uncomfortable. Living in the sense-world is like trying to take a warm shower all your life. That means that we will be living in a small world because most places do not have warm showers. Because of our specialized desires, we limit ourselves to a small world.
I have begun this letter on the ocean and I would also like to drop it in the mailbox on the ocean. It has been a very good trip. We are now about 200 miles from Bremerhaven. It is almost seven o’clock here. We will be in Bremerhaven sometime tomorrow morning, if it is God’s divine plan.
It is Friday. It is not just another Friday but an entirely new Friday. We must try to make each day a new day and the beginning of a new life. I have tried to write a little travelogue of this trip. Do not thank me for this letter if it has good points in it. All our praise should go to God. Please do not identify the good words with my name but with God’s. My reward has been in writing this letter. I have spent many happy hours with a pen in my hand and this tablet in front of me. May God bless you, my dear parents and brother. Please give greetings of joy and peace to all our good friends. May you also know that God’s strength and peace is always with you. Just think of the eternally moving ocean and the Mover.
Your boy and fellow-traveler,
July 29, 1953
My dear Mother, my dear Father, and my dear Brother,
Only we humans draw boundaries and make differences. But in God there exists no boundary. There is no such thing as this is “Germany,” and that is “France,” or “This is home, and across the river there is a strange land.” Our notions that one city is nicer than the next will make us suffer at one time or another and also divide us. We must build the city of peace in our hearts. That will be our greatest and most sure source of happiness. I felt this morning that no matter if bullets will fly and the earth will shake beneath our feet, that the city of peace will be unshaken. The philosophers say that knowledge is brought forth from the inside. That city of peace which will spread across the world can only be built from the inside to the outside. All other types of cities will eventually crumble to pieces.
At the moment I am at a processing camp in Zweibrücken. This morning I was again anxiously, wondering where I might be sent and just what I would be doing soon. The little voice inside once more reminded me silently, “You have your orders already. Serve God wherever you may be.” Human orders are so unsteady. They change so quickly, but God’s orders hold true for all eternity. I received the military orders a little later. I will be stationed near Nuremberg. But even human orders have their source in God. And if we have learned to hear His voice, we will be able to hear it in all voices. I do not know yet when I will have the chance to see our relatives here. I am waiting and trying to wait patiently for the day God sees fitting. I am so close to them and yet as far away as you are. I passed through Bremen with the train; I was a few miles from Ruth. We also passed through Worms. Life is such an interesting drama. The little voice reminds me again and again to be patient. As surely as day follows night, so will we be brought back again to those we love. But only when we love all, will we be together with everyone always.
The lunch hour has slipped in-between this sentence and the previous one. But something else has slipped in-between that is more wonderful than the lunch hour. Joy from God has slipped into my heart. I have talked to a friend about what I have written. And I have gotten an inkling of the joy which exists in knowing these things with your heart.
There is no such thing as German, French or American soil. It is all God’s soil. There is no real ruler or president of any land. God is the only One who may be called King. The earth is God’s kingdom, and rich and poor alike are His children and servants. I am just now looking out of the window into His beautiful Kingdom. In the valley below a peaceful town has grown out of the earth. The red-tiled roofs separate the village from the surrounding meadows, fields and forest. The hills remind me of the calm waves of the ocean. The land seems to be so well cared for and heavily laden with fruit. I have the feeling that many people here are working in close unity with God. Although there are army camps in the area, the city of peace is slowly and silently growing in the hearts of men.
The other day the little voice whispered something to me. It was about saints. Saints are the most wonderful people, who live on earth. But you know how I think saints feel? Saints consider themselves greater sinners than any other class of people. Once they have felt God’s greatness, they become aware of their own littleness. How can we ever think of raising our voice, when we are just a little wave dancing on the great ocean? If every blade of grass would raise its voice like we humans do, we would have quite some noise on the earth.
On the day the train brought us from Bremerhaven to Zweibrücken, I was looking at newly planted apple trees. Those people that plant trees that will only bear fruit after a few years have quite a bit of faith already. Farmers have quite a bit of faith. They trust in the rain, the sun, the soil and the seed. The merchants who trade in stores have not much faith usually. Many keep a close watch over their riches. They lend away their wealth when there is some gain in sight. Those that have great faith do good deeds for others with never a thought of gain in mind. They know the law. They know that God and eternity and eternal life is real.
I have so much room again since I started a new page that I will tell you a little story. It is the story of the cake that was made holy. In Germany German men and women do the kitchen chores in the American camps. It gives me great joy to speak to the workers. I have the feeling that they are all my brothers, mothers, sisters and fathers. I do not feel strange talking to anyone. They all have so much less than I do in material ways. I shared a little of my great bounty with one of the mothers working in the kitchen. She felt such joy just because of the little I had done that she wanted to do something for me. She offered to bring me anything my heart would desire. Finally I settled for a cake. It turned out to be a Topf Kuchen (Bundt Cake) baked with the true love of a mother. When I came to the cafeteria the following morning, a cake had been created for me. The lady gave me the cake with all her love. She gave me more than I had ever given. She showed me a picture of her mother and little daughter. I think she told me that she had lost two boys, but yet her face was calm and her eyes were filled with love. When we parted, I knew that another eternal bridge was built. With the cake in my hand and happiness in my heart, I returned to my barracks.
Next to my bed there was La Lou’s bed. He is a new brother, yet I feel that I have known him for a long time. He was sitting on his bed when I came in with the cake. I wanted to share with him the cake. He did not want any cake. Suddenly I grew eager to give him the whole cake. I remembered that a few days ago he had his twenty-fourth birthday. I said, “La Lou, I want you to have this cake; it is your birthday cake.” I had told him the story of its birth. He received the gift. It was the only visible gift he had received. The cake built a strong bond between us. But in the end he kept only half the cake. He took half the cake to France. I sneaked a little note into the cake package. Remember, Mother, like the notes you slipped into my lunch bag? I did this because I remembered the joy that your notes brought me. I wrote the note on the card, which you sent me. The card has a little verse on it that starts like this, “Give me good digestion, Lord, and something to digest.” It seems to me now that I saved the card especially for my brother La Lou. On paper the story has come to an end, but in spirit it will continue to live on.
I imagine that the new address I have now I will keep for a while. May God bless you all