Every once in awhile a book comes along that literally changes your life, and the way you see things. This book by Lloyd C. Douglas, “White Banners” was one of these books for me. When my grandparents passed away, many years ago, and the family went through all their possessions as families often do, the treasures that I was so blessed with were many of my grandfather’s books. They had a distinct smell to them, of decades of cigarette smoke, but I was glad to have them regardless. Among these was a book by Lloyd C. Douglas, “The Robe.” in the over 15 years since, this book has adorned every bookshelf of mine, and the cigarette odor has now diminished to a linger, a welcome revisit of my grandparents home whenever I open it. Why did I talk about this? Because, when I had the occasion to purchase “White Banners” for a paltry twenty-five cents at my local library, the author’s name rang a familiar bell. Little did I know as I embarked on this journey back in time, through a book written in 1936, that this journey would have such a distinct effect on me.
The setting is in Indiana, in 1919. A cold and wintery day, a lady named Hannah Parmalee comes to the door of a financially struggling couple , Professor Paul Ward, and his wife Marcia, and their two children, Roberta and Wally, (with one on the way, who will be little Sally). Hannah, is resourceful, but homeless, and trying to care for her needs by selling apple peelers for twenty-five cents each. Marcia, though somewhat taken back by this kind peddler, compassionately agrees to purchase one, and offers Hannah something to eat. Hannah, gratefully accepts, and seeing that this family could use a little help, ends up staying on for room and board as their housekeeper. So begins this tale of private courage, and an novel length illustration of how a word, or a lifetime of words, aptly spoken are truly apples of gold.
The story details the life of this family, and because of the wisdom of one who truly believes in pacifism, and that not necessarily fighting for what you believe is your rightful place in this world, or possessions, can yield a much richer treasure in the long haul, one can rise above every expectation. It is a story of turning the other cheek, of private courage. It is a tale of moral excellence. One of my favorite passages, on page 93, of this 400 page masterpiece:
A young man named Philip, is speaking to a much younger Hannah in her memory, “Imagine the case of a man who had used all his ingenuity to build up something for himself, and after he had succeeded to the point of being able to sit down and enjoy the rewards of his work some circumstance stripped him of everything he had, requiring him to take up the struggle again in a different field. Wouldn’t he be much more valuable to himself–and society– for having such an experience? Suppose a man consented to five up everything and make a new place for himself under conditions that forced him into new habits of mind, wouldn’t it be a wonderful developer?
All I can say is that I should like to adopt this attitude Mr. Lloyd C. Douglas, to see if it will yield a richer character within me, one that will be pleasing to my Lord, and my family as well. Thank you Paw-Paw, for choosing authors that would teach your grandson, long after you had left this side of the river, and my library for making such available to all regardless of their station.
If you have the privilege of occasion to read, “White Banners” please do so as quickly as you can. You will not face conflict the same way ever again. God bless!