Mothers and Fathers and Sisters and Brothers and kind hearts and homes you can find on all continents. When we are in need, God opens a home and heart for you. It is so wonderful to know that where there is need, there is help. I went to a German church service this morning. I was moved in my heart; I cannot tell you how much.
Something came into my heart this morning that was really always there but which was sleeping securely. It is more wonderful to share the meal of a beggar than to dine with a king. It hurts me to eat in the cafeteria, to see the waste and then remember the way other people live. God provides for everyone. We are not the ones to equalize the scale. But at least we should never try to get more than our neighbor. We should rather aim at becoming equal to the ones that have less than we do. Our desires to have more and more can never be satisfied. We should rather aim in the other direction. Bread will turn to stones in our mouth if we will not share with hungry souls. We can try to forget this for a while, but not forever. You cannot stand under a hot shower all your life. One day the warm water tank will be empty and then the shock will be great.
These months in the army are the greatest school I have ever attended. To be in Germany with an understanding of the American way of life, and a little understanding of life in general, is the greatest experience I have had in many years. People of the world do not get along so well not because they are bad or mean, they just donít understand each other. If we would have the understanding why people are the way they are, we would never dislike anyone. It is understanding we must seek. We should always try to understand rather than be understood.
This story is endless. My life has become so full. But I will tell you first of something that happened today. When I came out of the church, I was moved so deeply because I felt the needless differences which exist between the Germans and the Americans. There came tears into my eyes out of shame, I think. I could not hold back the tears. It seemed to me that they had been stored up since years past. Yes, I cried and somehow it made me feel a little better. I sat outside the church on a bench in the garden which surrounded the church. A man who was helping out in the church came to me to help me. And after a while the minister came. He put his loving hand around me like a father. I was his son. He gave me his hand to comfort and steady my heart. He took me by the arm and drove me home in his car. I shared the meal with him and his family as if I were their son. He made me sit down in his garden and rest. He gave me Mirabellen (a fruit similar to cherries but mostly yellow) grown in his garden and he gave me apples grown in his neighborís garden. He told me that his house was my home and that I was always invited. I am writing you now at his desk and am using his stationary. When there is need, God is the closest to you.
It is hard to believe that I am in the army. I am stationed in a hospital. I have accommodations like a prince. I sleep in a big room on the sixth floor of the hospital. Sixteen other boys sleep in the room. We can either walk up the stairs to our room or take the elevator. I do not as yet know my duties but they will be pleasant. But I would like to say one thing and underline it. Your physical surroundings, your physical comforts do not change you as a person. If you were happy in a hut and with a crust of bread, you will be happy anywhere else. If we are not content with what we have now, we will not be happy with twice the amount. The city , the kingdom of peace, is in ourselves and in God who is in us.
I say, may God bless you. May God bless the kind of people where I am at home now. If you would send them some little something from America just once, that would be very wonderful.
In a few minutes I will be having cake and coffee with them in the garden. Oh, how wonderful it is to be 7,000 miles from home and yet to be home. What more wonderful thing in life is there than to make a home for the homeless?
Your boy forever, Peter
August 4, 1953
My good Comrades,
It is a new day. The dew is still heavy on the grass. Shortly I will be going to work or, rather, switch jobs. I am pleasantly busy now. I shall try to be pleasantly busy whatever I do. It is a beautiful morning, and I just wanted to sit down a moment and tell you this. I am busy now trying to build another home around this hospital. With Godís help, it will be done. And your prayers are big forces in my life.
God is watching over me and all of us here and everywhere. Without Him life is an impossible task. I was able to get a special diet in the hospital. I am getting food that is easier to digest. I get more fruit and vegetables. I just have to ask for fruit and I can have anything they have in stock.
Today is an extra special day. It is Ruthís birthday. All our thoughts and hearts will be meeting in Pad Pyrmont. I will see you there, my dear Comrades.
May God bless you and keep you strong. He is the only one who can do it.
Your boy, now and always,
I love you with my heart, with the heart that God gave me.
August 8, 1953
My dear Comrades,
God has led me to a place of beauty and rest. Where may it be? I would like to let you guess. It is the first stop on the road to our heavenly rest. I imagine that youíll be able to guess. The cemetery is not a sad place for me. It is rather a place of joy and fulfillment and justice. Whether we had a little or much or nothing, we will be equal. Everything that came from the earth, the earth will claim again. The hand with which I write you now, the earth will claim again. I feel that the building force will eternally remain the same, but all that is built will change.
It is a little cemetery where I am. I think it belongs to the people of the nearby village. One part of the cemetery is surrounded by a hedge and the remainder of the resting place is surrounded by a wall. And all around there are fields. It is a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. The little park has many visitors. It is touching to see the people come with fresh flowers and watering cans and garden tools. Then the old women and young children work on some grave and make it nice.
Such a beautiful garden as a cemetery is seldom found in any other place. Everything is done with so much love and that is what makes all the difference. Only after we lose something do we understand what the real worth is of that which we have lost. How many people will bring to their living friends the bouquets of flowers and of love that the departed souls receive? I wonder how much good our departed friends receive from our gifts of love. Maybe our departed friends would be benefitted more if we would offer our love to lonely living souls? All these things we will all know one day.
Next to me on the bench on old lady sat down. She is doing some knitting. It might seem like an unimportant task. But I donít think it is. I believe that the executive in an office who is pushing a pencil all day long is not doing a more important job than the lady.
I see that a friend just came. It is an elderly lady whose husband departed a year and a half ago. I met the lady a few nights ago while taking a walk through the fields. She has opened her heart and her home for me. She said she will be my mother while I am here. She said that I am a homeless bird which she has found.
I would like to ask you for a favor. Could you send me a Spanish-English, English-Spanish dictionary? It can be old and not big Ė a size that is comfortable to carry around. And could you please include a Spanish story which is easy and enjoyable to read? I have plans. And then I would like to ask for another favor. Could you send me, perhaps, my flannel pajamas? For the Fall and Winter they will be very welcome.
The evening I spent with the old lady. I could almost say, with my mother. She treats me just like a mother would treat her son. She shared her meal with me selflessly. What she gave me, she gave me with her whole heart. God led me to this lady because she would be able to teach me more out of the schoolbook of life. She taught me very much last night and just at the right time. She let me see and believe that an exclusive concentration on religion may make a person ill. Our mind will need some time to relax and rest.
I can see now where we may reach a state where spiritual truths are revealed to us more and more often. But that is not always so good. If one part of us grows too fast, we will be putting a strain on other organisms that canít keep pace. When I realized the truth in the ladyís words, a great strain left me. It seemed as if a great load was being taken from my shoulders. A change Ė another phase of growth Ė is coming soon.
A few days ago I had asked for an understanding and help along these lines. I knew something was wrong because there was too much strain on me, and my stomach is always a good thermometer. It seems to me that there is now a period of assimilation and digestion at hand. It is a period during which I must learn to make practical application of what I have learned. I must and will become so free that strain and care will not exist anymore. I like what a doctor told me the other day. He said, ďLetís say forty people would tell me their problems each day. If I would let each problem weigh me down, I would soon be carrying an impossible load. You cannot help others by suffering with them. Rather, try to make them see the unreality of their problems.Ē
Sometimes, however, we have to experience the suffering of others in our own mind and body. Only when we have tasted suffering ourselves, will we receive an understanding and the ability to help those that are in need. But we do not have to suffer permanently. It seems that I am once again entering into a new life today.
Meanwhile, it has become the ninth of August and it is Hellmutís birthday and a birthday for me, too. It is the most beautiful day since I am in Germany. The sun is shining brightly and the flowers are blooming so pretty on the meadow where I sit. Happy Birthday, dear Hellmut, and a happy life. And you know the saying, ďA sad saint is a sad saint, indeed.Ē
I know that no problem exists with my stomach. There is no chronic ailment in my digestion. But I need to have these discomforts for a while to learn certain things.
I would like to say once more today that I have learned very much during these six months in the army under the tender care and guidance of God. No amount of money would I take in exchange for what I have learned. Any material thing would seem like pennies in comparison. And yet, there is still more to come. I am doing little for the army in comparison to what the army is doing for me. I wish every boy could say this. We all have the same opportunities to learn and grow, but many of us donít take full advantage of the opportunities that are offered. We all have a tendency to step underneath a roof when it rains. Maybe a little rain in our face would not hurt us at all but would awaken us.
I have another little favor, please. If your run across some enjoyable book, would you please send it to me? I am not thinking of any religious books, just a nice story or book of travel. I know you have a good feeling for such things, dear Mother.
I hope that you are getting along fine, too. I know God takes care of you. Just take life step-by-step. Donít try to skip away. One step is built upon the other. I would like to wish you a good-bye for now until we meet again. Would you please say hello to our friends for me and wish them a happy voyage through life? Your voyage, dear Papa, is at hand soon. I am sure it will be a happy voyage for you. And you, dear Hellmut, may I wish you happy school days. It really does not pay to worry about exams.
May God bless you all and keep you happy and strong.
Your boy, Peter
August 10, 1953
My dear Mother, my dear Papa, my dear Brother,
I am receiving many presents from God. The sum total of todayís presents was a pleasant day. Once again the tunnel I have been going through has turned out to be a gate into a more beautiful garden of flowers and understanding. At the end of our pilgrimage we will not feel that it was only a long dreary journey. We will feel that it was only a short walk into an even more radiant life.
Today I received your first letter from August 3rd. That was a good report I received. I had no idea when I would hear from you, so that I was taken quite by surprise. That was good news indeed Ė all the way around. Something came to me, too, as I read about Papaís and Hellmutís diet problems. I went through a similar problem and only changed my ways a few meals ago. But only after I read your letter did I realize consciously why I changed my eating habits. The body needs certain food values. If it does not get those food values, it will be hungry although full. The craving for food will continue to exist so long as all organisms are not provided for. The body feels that as long as it keeps the craving for food alive, there might be a chance that the necessary foods are eaten. We must learn to know what the body needs and then give the necessary food to the body. At the moment, I believe that we cannot satisfy the needs of the body just by a lot of fruits and salads. You know that if we try to do that, we think a great part of the day about food instead of God. Saints might be able to take a different attitude, but they are saints. What I have written is only the view of my present understanding. As we grow in understanding, we will feel different again. We should not say that this is it but that this is a stepping-stone. I feel strongly that Papa and Hellmut must change their habits of eating. They are too rigid in their views.
I also received a card from Sonni today. She knew I was in Germany, but not where. Thatís alright that she found out earlier through Papa. No harm done. She is planning on visiting me but not at the moment because she is working. But I know that the day and the hour shall come. The idea has been planted. It will only take a little time now to mature.
Today I was assigned to my permanent job, if there exists such a thing as permanency on earth. I rather doubt it. I am working in the Registrarís Office. I will be doing office work; filing and typing and everything connected with paperwork. On the average we have a 48-hour week. It is a bright office with lots of windows and about seven nice people. At the moment there are two German ladies working in the office. There are quite a few German civilians working in the hospital. It is a bright and pleasant hospital to work in. I feel quite at home already. Everything is ship-shape and tip-top.
You are doing alright on the path, dear Mother. Donít be too much in a hurry. I tried to break open the petals of the spiritual flower prematurely. I did not realize that the spiritual flower takes time to unfold. As long as you have the deep desire to know God and make Him happy, everything is then alright. When you broadcast that desire into the universe, you have made God your shepherd. He will bring you home safely then. But I have the feeling that your flower is unfolding naturally. As long as we want to be home with God, we will be home one day. I feel so much richer because of the experience I went through. God is just as close to us while we are in the valley as He is while we are ascending the heights.
August 11, 1953
My dear Ones,
Last evening I spent with my old lady-friend again after I got a haircut from a German barber. I surely enjoyed everything about the evening. My old lady-friend feels as if she has been entrusted with my welfare. She wants me to be sure to come to her at least three to four times a week. She wants me to have a key to her apartment so that I can come anytime. She insists on giving me something to eat every time I come. She wants me to get stronger. She is sending you all her best regards. She lives on Tilly Str. 23, Nuremberg Ė Schweinau. Her name is Mrs. Schnuphase. It is about a 10 to 14 minute walk from her home to the hospital. (Peter wrote the previous few sentences in German and excused himself for unintentionally doing so.)
About the news of Mr. Zeidler, I am very happy. He is a struggling soul. I met him in Central Park one evening while taking a walk. We spent a wonderful evening talking together.
Today I received a letter from you, dear Papa, which was addressed to the first address. You told me the story from Unity Magazine in your letter, and you told me about your own experiences on the path. I received very great help from your letter. It brought greater peace again into my life and greater understanding. Thank you so much for sitting down and talking to me. It is very true and important for gentleness to be used in all our doings. It does not pay to hurry. If we drive our body and mind to an excessive high speed, it will wear out and break down prematurely.
May His blessings and His gentleness be with you forever.
Your boy, Peter
August 15, 1953
My dear Comrades,
Today I received a jackpot of letters Ė five items in all. There was, number one, a postcard; number two, a typewritten letter and a long one from the eighth; number three, another typewritten letter from the eighth with a nice poem in the lower left-hand corner of the page; number four, the long letter from our friend Mr. Zeidler; and number five, a letter from dear Beverly. There are big treasures hidden in what I received.
Itís a funny thing, dear Mother, but when I read your letters, I just feel like sitting down and starting to write. You have been having it hard. I could feel that. But donít you worry. We went through this schooling together. The Master Craftsman has been chiseling on us all our lives. Our minds were somehow hardened; therefore, it took a couple of hard blows this time. But it is all for the better. The stormy weather will soon pass. And when the storm has passed, we will be delighted to feel how much stronger our spiritual muscles have become. These are just growing pains.
I have a wisdom tooth pushing through the gums just now. It hurts, but there is really nothing to be worried about. Through the physical discomforts I have even realized that worries are not real. I have been worrying for a couple of days about imaginary things. But not until the physical pains set in did I realize that I had created the obstacles only in my mind. The physical pains chase away the mental worries.
Donít you worry, God will lift us out of this storm and He will lift us higher into heaven. Some time ago we entrusted our lives to Him and He wonít let us go anymore. We have signed a contract with Him and He has signed it with us. It is a contract that holds good into all eternity.
From your letters I have the feeling that we have been studying the same lessons of life. On some days, when things seem awfully difficult, the other boys laugh and joke, and then the next day the tables turn. So, if a few persons are happy in the army, that proves that you can be happy in the army. It proves conclusively that there is something wrong with you and not the army. You even have your hard days in civilian life. You will not have paradise in civilian life if you have not had it in the army.
Beverlyís letter was a good letter. She was aware of my needs and wrote me accordingly. It is amazing to see how close we all are in the world of spirit. Beverly wrote me that the Wise Men took time out for a few laughs and some play. You have to allow yourself a little relaxation and vacation in the school of life. You canít be serious all the time. You must learn to laugh because when you learn to laugh again from your heart, you will learn to relax. A serene face, lost in deep thought, might be an inspiring thing; but I think that a natural smile and a twinkle in the eye is even more to be desired. People will understand a smiling face better than a meditative face.
I had the notion for a long time that the time for playing checkers was over for me. But I am not too old to play. We should never forget to play. I played two games of checkers before and I enjoyed it. Life is not meant to be taken so serious. We have work to do but we must not forget to play like children. We donít have to grow up into men and women with problems. We can stay children if we want to. When we grow up, we have a tendency to feel that we are regulating the affairs of the family and the world. But God is the one who has been regulating all affairs for all eternity. The world has existed before we were here and it will exist after we leave. Are our problems so important, then? They are really not very important and weighty, because, usually, they are only important to us.
We think our life is a difficult life in comparison to those of others. We have a tendency to compare our misfortunes with the fortunes of others. If we do that, we will feel all our life that we are on the losing end. Instead, we should compare what we have with people who have even less. That way we may consider ourselves fortunate. We will always find those who have more and those who have less. We are making ourselves unhappy if we always look at those that have better food on the table.
You are earning twice as much money as I do, dear Mother. Twice as much is quite a bit. But I still feel that I am earning a lot of money. I am earning about fifty Marks more than the German workers in the hospital. But actually I am even earning more than that because I get room and board and clothing all free. I work fewer hours than the Germans and I think I get twice as much vacation a year. The Italian soldier receives only about eight cents a day. Somehow, whether we have little or much, we all stay alive. And those who have the least seem to be able to share the most. Those who have learned to share the most have also learned to trust.
Dear Mother, your letters are just the way I want them to be. They are you the way you are at the moment. You say your letters are choppy. I surely donít feel that way about them. I love your letters the way they are, for they are you and I love you with all my heart. I love all of you, whether you write or not.
Sonni knows now that I am here. I am going to visit her soon. I put in for a weekend pass for the end of this month. Sonni has just gotten a job she likes very much; otherwise she would have come to Nuremberg. Stuttgart is only a four-hour ride from here. I wish you could be with us when we meet, but you will be with us in spirit. And we are beginning to feel that the spirit is quite real.
That Papa and Hellmut are eating different and more now is really good news. We will be constantly changing our diet as we grow. I have come to a point where I will eat meat if I should really need it to be healthy. I have the feeling that the animals wonít mind to sacrifice their lives if they know it is for a worthwhile cause. A mother will sacrifice her life for her child. It is not so hard to give a part of ourselves if we know that others are appreciative and are benefitted. We should not say that I wonít eat this or that. We should rather say, ďGod, teach me to eat that which is necessary for my health.Ē It took quite a bit of molding of my mind before I was willing to say this.
There is a little story which I would like to tell you. This story has helped me. This is the story of a good friend of mine. The lady owns a little food store right outside the gate of the hospital. I often see this lady. Just to be in her store and to be near her is a refreshing experience. This lady has strong spiritual muscles because her load has been heavy. She also invited me to her home and garden any time I want to come. She has two daughters. The little story is about her older daughter who is nineteen.
This girl loves a boy. She loves him very dearly. The boy works in a factory, I believe. The boy has one weakness. He likes to gamble. I believe the boy and the girl have plans to get married sometime in the future. But the girl said to the boy that if you want that we two should remain together, you must stop gambling. He promised the girl to stop. But one day last week, I believe, temptation was so strong that he gambled again. The girl found out about this. This was such a great shock and disappointment to the girl that she did not want to live anymore. She poisoned herself. But God did not want the girl to die yet and did not want to bring such grief to the mother. The sister happened to come home just in time. The girl was taken to the hospital and the poison was removed. I think that she is all well again.
If humans are so upset when a promise is broken, how must God feel if we are not able to keep our promise? He does not like to see us suffer. He wants us to be happy and there is only real happiness in remaining true to Him. That is the story.
If Arthur should marry, let us hope he will be one thing to the end. Under stormy or sunny skies, let us wish him and his sweetheart that they will be true to each other always.
With the package to the Tratz family, there is plenty of time. Maybe you can send one for Christmas. And at second thought, it is not at all necessary. They have helped me because it is their nature to be good. They do not think of any compensation. You can also include something in a package for me and I can then pass it along to them. It is not important. We should not try to compensate, we should try to be good. I brought this whole question up because I am still too business-like.
You are saving my letters? So many books are written already. I think the bookshelf space in the libraries is becoming quite scarce. Too much has been written and too little has been done. Sometimes I wonder if it has been worth our while to save so many books? What is true and good will always be remembered and rediscovered. And the other Stuff? Maybe it would be just as well to forget the other things. What will live after us are not the words but the deed behind the word.
Donít worry, dear Mother, business troubles will clear up again. Smooth sailing is ahead. You are all in the ďDivine Trend.Ē We always are and always will be. We only forget sometimes that we are in the ďDivine Trend.Ē God cannot be away from us. Just a little smoke gets into our eyes. Mine, too. But the smoke is clearing away now. We must laugh a bit again; it is a good medicine.
Writing paper is coming, too? That is thoughtful of you. I still have a little but not too much.
This evening I am going to my second mother. She insisted that I come to her. At first, I did not want to go to her today because I saw her only two days ago; but now I am glad I can see her. I ate no extra supper in the hospital tonight because she always insists that I have another meal with her. And the meals always taste extra good because they are prepared by her loving hands.
I forgot to send greetings to you from the ladyís niece, too. She is a fine girl, a real German girl from the farm. She is twenty-four. Lina is her name. We are friends, good friends. You know how I feel about Beverly. That is how I feel about Lina.
Mr. Zeidlerís letter is really a wonderful letter. It is wonderful for me to see what happens when you see only the good in people. He is really a great warrior on the path. No matter if he has stumbled a hundred-thousand times, he has kept on walking on Godís side. If you ever feel like writing him, I am sure he will be happy to hear from you.
You can say that by some accident you read the letter first before sending it to me. But, when you read the letter, you knew it was no accident because it helped you so much. When I read about a page of Mr. Zeidlerís letter, I said in my mind, ďOh, dear Geoffrey.Ē And then, towards the end, he asks me do please call him by his first name. I feel that we are quite close.
It is about 6:00 P.M
Good-bye, my dear Ones Ė till later.
Forever and always,
Your boy, Peter
August 17, 1953
My dear Ones,
I am going to slip this postcard into the typewriter for a minute instead of my regular Work. That is alright because we can always take a break in-between our work when we feel like it. I am asked to do a job and then I can take my time to do it. What does not get done today gets done tomorrow.
If you have not done anything about the Spanish books, please forget about it because I can get a few Spanish books in the library I discovered in the hospital. Either way is good enough.
Do you know why we usually suffer more when we grow older? Because we cannot adjust ourselves so readily to new situations. When we are young, we cry for two minutes when we cannot go to the ball game and then everything is forgotten. Let us learn to adjust ourselves more the child-like way.
Your boy forever, Peter
August 20, 1953
My dear Comrades,
Just a little note to tell you hello and to tell you I am fine.
I asked one of the men how he was a few days ago and he said, ďAlways a little better.Ē That is the way to be each day.
I read a wonderful article in the August Readerís Digest. I believe it is the story of Nansen, the Norwegian. Nansen said that when you set out to explore the unexplored, donít leave any bridges by which you might be able to retreat in case of defeat. Know that you can only go one way; that is, forward. Everything that is dear to you, carry in your heart. That way you wonít be returning but always going forward. Donít leave anything you treasure behind. Otherwise, you always return to the earth.
Smile, my dear Ones, smile all day long.
Your boy Peter
August 22, 1953
My dear Parents and my dear Brother,
My guardian angel that has held my hand is holding my hand now. I have the feeling that I was close to an abyss. You might have felt something, dear Mother, but everything is happening for a reason. Even the dark and dangerous hours are necessary. Everything is well that ends well.
I have the feeling now that too much religion can throw a person off balance. That little voice inside me became a little bit to impetuous for me. I just could not carry out all the assignments that the little General inside gave me. I always had the feeling that what the General said must be done, but then the General became loud and too persistent. The General would not give me a chance to relax and rest. He kept me too busy. There was something wrong because I knew I could not last much longer at such a pace. The mind was always busy, busy, busy. I could not smile for a while and I just could not be happy.
Through the help of kind people, I realized then that a wrong General was giving me orders. God wants us to smile and be happy, but this General wanted me to be always busy and hurry up. Too much religion will not necessarily bring a person to God quickly. But even this lesson was necessary. It shows me a little of what Ruth and Sonni have suffered. If we have had a disease ourselves and have been healed, we can better help those who are ill.
A little personal illustration! A few days ago I had a mighty toothache. I hoped it would go away by itself because it was hurting in the neighborhood of the wisdom tooth. I often passed my hand against my cheek because somehow that helped a little. But when it continued to hurt, I decided to ask for some pills so I would not feel the pain. The pills helped wonderfully. They did not make me sleepy, yet they chased away all pains.
This afternoon I noticed how a lady in my friendís grocery store was holding her hand against her cheek. I asked the lady if she had a toothache. She had a mighty toothache. She had just come from the dentist who had pulled a whole row of infected teeth. I told the lady to wait just a minute in the store. I got the pills which had helped me so much. The lady was very thankful and happy for the pills. She wished me the best that life can hold for anyone. Those wishes came from her heart and they made me very happy.
I also made an appointment with the dentist. It was a cavity in the tooth next to the wisdom tooth that had given me the trouble. The dentist who filled the hole was really nice and careful. He even gave an injection so that the drilling would not hurt. The dentist also found two or three other cavities which I will have fixed next week.
Now that the crisis in my soul is lessening, I can see how blessed I am where I am stationed. I have a very comfortable home here at the hospital. We have wonderful grounds. We have many plum trees and this year the trees were loaded with plums. They are currently ripe. Every day I enjoy some plums. We also have a chapel, a theatre, and a place to write letters and read. Table tennis and other games are also available. (The above paragraph has been translated from the German by the author.)
We have access to classical records and a phonograph. We have plenty of free time to make use of these facilities. In the hospital is also a P.X., soda fountain, cleaner, barber, and probably even more.
We rise in the morning about ten minutes to six. Sometime I get up earlier than that so that I can take a shower and get ready in peace. I wear my good uniform every day because I work in an office. At a quarter after six we have a very informal roll call. After the roll call we sometimes exercise for five or ten minutes. From six-thirty to seven-thirty breakfast is served. That always gives me plenty of time to eat the meal in peace. Although I have the time now, I sometimes forget to eat in peace. I am trying, though. I almost always have cocoa and milk for breakfast. Fruit juice I have often. Then we have toast, eggs (scrambled or hard-boiled), and cereal. I never get any fried foods in my diet. Unfried food, I think, is a little easier to digest.
Sometimes I take a little stroll through the garden before I go to the office at seven-thirty. I work then till twelve noon with some breaks in-between, if I like. Then we have an hour for lunch. It is all very good food that God and the cook give me. And if I should have a general wish, the cook will try to fulfill it.
All I really wish is that I donít eat more than I really need. So far, I have always Ė or almost always Ė eaten everything that was on my tray. I think that that was not quite the right thing for me to do at times. It was because the cook sometimes judges my stomach according to the size of his own stomach. I hated to throw anything away, but are we not also throwing food away if we eat more than our body needs? Itís just a little more indirect way of throwing food away. Nothing is lost, really. It all goes back to the soil.
From one to five we go back to the office. The office is open five and one-half days a week; however, we only work five days. We can take one morning or one afternoon off each week. From five to six, supper is served. Anytime we are not on duty, we can pick up our pass and leave the hospital.
I often see my dear lady friend. If it would not be for this lady, I would not leave the hospital very often. Sometimes I just leave the hospital to take a walk through the fields. Now the weather is so nice and there are so many flowers blooming. When I sit on a chair most of the day, I have the feeling to stretch my legs a little at night.
I cannot tell you how glad I am today that I have come into the army before I took any further schooling at U.C.L.A. This long tunnel I have been walking through has turned out to be another gate. I am learning now just as surely as if I would be sitting in a classroom and listening to Professor Albrightís interpretation of Kantís philosophy. I am learning from life. I am learning from people who have gained their wisdom through living. Everyone can be our teacher.
Mrs. Schnuphase is one of my teachers now. She has helped me out of one of my difficult crises. As I look back at our first meeting, it seems like a miracle. Mrs. Schnuphase was the one who started to speak to me in German although I was wearing a uniform. She had seen beneath the clothes into a troubled heart. At the time I did not think I could stand to stay so long in the army, but I see now that it was not the army which was making life so difficult. When we donít get along, we usually donít get along with ourselves. We often blame our job or our neighbors for our unhappiness. When we are unhappy and worried, we can search in ourselves and we will find the cause of our difficulties. But the best thing is to bring our troubles to God and He will help us.
I always thought that when I am finished with school, there will be no more worries because there are no more tests to worry about. But I find now that if we will let ourselves be worried about one thing, then we will also worry about other things. So the thing to do is to learn to stop worrying about anything. I am trying to learn to let nothing disturb my piece of mind. It is a lot of fun to learn this.
I am in good hands, dear Mother. My Guardian Angel who protected me when the big clock tells on me is also protecting me now. And I also have a mother who is caring for me like you would care for me. There is great love in her heart. Her desires for this world are all (or almost all) extinguished. She is ready to leave this world any moment God would call her.
She told me one thing yesterday evening which touched my heart. She said that she would only like to stay in this world as long as I am in Nuremberg. She wants to live yet so that I may have a Mother and a home and a friend in whom I can confide all my troubles. From me Mrs. Schnuphase does not want a thing, but for me she wants to do everything. She has little, but she is very satisfied with what she has. She feels that her husband who passed on has even less. Through her husbandís death, she has realized that we cannot take anything into the next world.
When I first met the lady, I did not think I could learn much from her or feel that closeness of hearts. I thought she was quite simple. I was conceited and had poor vision: Otherwise, I would not have thought or felt such things. But now I feel that this simple lady has traveled far on the road to heaven. I really enjoy to go to her home now and write a letter there or to read the paper or a book. And we also talk together. She talks in a different language than we are used to, but yet it is the same truth and love which she expresses.
She wants me to tell you that you have nothing to worry about. She is taking care of me and keeping an eye on me while I am here. She wants me to get nice red cheeks, gain a couple of pounds, and have a free and happy heart until Papa comes.
I hope, dear Mother and Papa, that you have not had it hard on account of me. I feel that we are all so close together that we are all affected by each otherís suffering. But if you have had it hard, then let me thank you for carrying the load together with me. We have all gotten stronger spiritual muscles. Somehow there has also come a good physical change for me. I can run up the stairs again with the greatest of ease, and when I reach the top of the steps. I donít feel tired.
Someone asked me to get something yesterday and, instead of walking, I felt like running. That has not happened since a long time that I ran out of my own accord. I was always too tired for that.
I was very happy to read that Hellmut is doing so well in school. His grades show that he is learning quite a bit. If he keeps up his studies like he has been, he will be all right if he should get drafted. If he has a little more schooling, he will probably get a job in his field in the army. Maybe Hellmut wonít have to be a soldier? God knows what is best for Hellmut. I hope Hellmut was able to get those good grades without excitement. It does not pay to lose our peace of mind because of some numbers.
How is your job, dear Mother? Have you been able to settle everything and sign a peace pact between all warring nations? Some differences of opinion are bound to come up once in a while. They are also necessary sometimes. They break the monotony and force us to think and maybe change a little.
I feel that I have been changing around in my attitudes quite a lot since I have come into the army. I would like to show you one example. I was not very able in the art of sharing and giving when I first came into the army. I tried to practice the art. I had some success but there was room for improvement. I had the idea that as long as I was giving, I was doing something that was good and was helping. During the last few weeks an unknown spirit of stinginess has come over me. It was difficult for me to give freely. I made an investigation to find out the reason. So far, I have come up with two answers: One, I am not as good as I thought I was; and, two I have also been giving too indiscriminately. I had given in order that I might be good myself instead of in order to help. I had, rather, made people weaker through the way I had helped. Now I will try to learn to give help where there is a need and not for the sake of being good. I have been thinking much too much about doing good and being good and being thought of as good. It is more important that we do right, and happiness will be the natural result. I have been thinking much too much about the outcome of my actions. That is futile mental activity. A good thing to say is, ďDear, God, I have done the best I knew how today. Tomorrow I will try to do better." It is no use to suffer from past mistakes. We can try to do better the next time. To have a guilt complex is not necessary.
I have written this letter in two installments. The first page I wrote by Mrs. Schnuphase last night, Saturday evening. Yesterday she cooked for me farina with an egg and a big piece of butter on top; and I also had home-made applesauce with this. The finalť was a good hot cup of tea. She offered me some cookies but I could not eat anymore.
The second part I wrote in the hospital Ė two pages in the garden and one page in the library while listening to Beethovenís Sixth Symphony. The last three pages I am writing on Sunday. Today is Sunday. It is about three oíclock now. I might take a walk over to Mrs. Schnuphase a little later. She is sending her very best regards. Please remember your boy in your prayers. I wish you a nice journey, dear Papa.
Your boy, forever, Peter
Next weekend I am planning to see our dear Sonni.
August 26, 1953
My dear Mother, Papa, and brother Hellmut,
I am in possession of two more wonderful letters, the one from Papa and one from my Mother. Each letter contained a beautiful picture of our new garden with our house and our Mother. I like the garden and I like the way Mother looks. You look so young and happy, dear Mother, How is it possible. You are right Mother; Papaís letter is very beautiful. I will send it back to you. Thank you, Papa. Thank you, Hellmut, for fixing the garden. Everyone does his share in the field of his calling.
Your letter, dear Mother, was written with a lot of deep thinking in back of it. You are making good headway. Maybe Iíll be holding onto you for a while now. Sometimes you canít do anything but hold on and ride out the storm. It is all for the better. We must learn to hold on tight no matter what happens. To lose faith is to lose everything. These trials come whether I would be home with you or at home with Mrs. Schnuphase. To pray for each other is the best medicine. I would also like to learn to smile with a free heart. I have met some people who always smile so I know that it is possible to learn.
This evening I went to a meeting of brothers. We were nine together. We were all German men of middle age and older coming together to learn more about God. We have our gathering in a little room, a kitchen. I was there tonight for the first time and I felt at home right away. They are all not rich, but are rich in their hearts. When I shook each hand, it felt like the hand of a brother. That is quite a big gift. The informal praying and singing and reading and discussion helped again. Thus, I have gone to school for an hour tonight. I do not get a diploma, but what do we need a diploma for? Will I have a test on what I have learned? Each new day is a test. Each trial of patience is a test.
Dear Hellmut, I wish you a nice school year. I hope you will learn that which you really want to learn. I wish you all Godís blessings and His peace.
I helped out and took part in a little picnic for little boys. We can learn so much from little children. Children can often teach us things that professors are unable to teach.
May God bless you and keep you safe on the journey in this land which is yet so strange.
Your boy, Peter
The way you took care of the Ephibean matter is fine, thank you.
August 27, 1953
My dear Ones,
Yesterday evening I wrote you this letter after I came back from the gathering. It was a little late already, so I did not go into details in answering. I just wanted to send you my love. I just wanted that the mailman would not pass by our house. I wanted to tell you that I love you very much and that I will love you always. If there is such a thing, I will love you always. I think of you often. Your letters are just the way I like them, dear Mother.
I can buy the Readerís Digest here, so maybe you can send me one just once in a while. You can send it by regular mail. You know that when you send it, it is different than when I buy it.
Tomorrow I leave for the weekend to see our dear sister Sonni. I will take you along in my thoughts. I wrote this just before the working day started. Good-bye, my best Ones.
Regards to all our friends and flowers and newly planted shrubs.
Your little soldier, your little boy, Peter
August 27, 1953
My dear Ones,
I would just like to drop you this card to tell you that things are shaping up beautifully. I was just having natural growing pains. The storm has passed through the crown of the tree. The healthy branches just bent but the sick branches were broken out. Now there is more room for the healthy branches to expand into the light and grow taller. Peter is all right. Life in the army has been the best teacher. If things get hard, if growing pains come, you can remind me of that.
Your boy forever,
August 31, 1953
My dear mother and dear Brother,
How are you tonight? I am fine. I am sitting together with a friend who is also writing a letter. I think he is writing his wife. This friend is a fine boy. He is a patient in the hospital. I am together with him in his quiet room. My friend had an accident with his right hand. The fourth and middle index fingers were hurt. He nearly lost a part of his index finger. The doctors were undecided whether they should amputate or not. When fate was in the balance, the boy remained calm. The finger will not be amputated. Harold is very thankful for this. Harold is married and has two little boys. He loves his wife and boys very much. He hopes with all his heart that he will become sergeant soon. When he is a sergeant, he may have his wife and children brought over to Germany at government expense. But if this should not become a reality, Harold has the strength and faith to wait until his twenty-seven months are over and he can return home.
Dear Mother, I am going to use my two feet again to walk on the earth. I have realized that I am no angel and that I cannot fly. I am going to walk again even if walking is a slower means of transportation. For what is the rush anyway? We are condemning the hasty ways of modern civilization and we ourselves cannot press the gas pedal down far enough. The important thing is that we are going forward. At what speed is unimportant because time is not real. If we drive at breakneck speed, we wonít be able to go around the sharp and dangerous curves.
I am entering into another phase of development. I am seeing Godís approving look as He sees the farmer till the soil, the butcher sell the meat, the chimneysweep clean the chimney, the barber cut the childís hair, the grocer sell the groceries. In my eyes now it seems like great conceit to think that we are chosen to change the world. God will bring about the change. All those people Ė or many of them Ė who thought that they were chosen to change the world have brought more hurt than help.
Mother, I do not want to act big or wise anymore. I am not so wise in reality, you can believe me. I have been ambitious to get applause. You have applauded me. You have never criticized what I wrote. Only Beverly (very gently) and Ella have pointed out some of my shortcomings. If someone criticized me, it hurt me. If I would have the true humility, I could not be hurt. Others know me as an old soul with great spiritual longings. I am only a young child. I am not so good as I thought I was or as others might think I am. Dear Mother, it feels so good to be little again and not to be standing on a pedestal, to feel that the simple life of a farmer or baker is good enough and is good for me. You must have had a feeling about such a change in my life. Do you remember how you asked me a little while back if I was not living the way I was because others expected it? This is another step forward. I do not want to say ďupwardĒ because I do not like to stand on a pedestal.
I have been together with our dear Sonni, my sister. It was so wonderful. I have also been together with Ernst; and we have all talked together. Ernst is very much like our dear Hellmut. He is a good boy and yet an unfinished product like you and I and all of us. With courage and endurance Sonni and Ernst will be able to live happily together and learn very much from each other. But this will take courage and determination to succeed.
When you have once started to build something, you should by all means finish your project. If we leave our work half done, we will lose faith and begin to doubt. That is why I feel Sonni and Ernst should stick together despite all obstacles. He is a good boy. If you understand him, you will love him like your sons Hellmut and Dieter. Do you remember how difficult you had it, dear Mother? The remedy was to stick to your guns. Everything will be all right if you have faith that it will be all right.
Sonni and I understand each other so well. We are so happy that we may be together again. Our first moments of meeting were an experience. To have a grown-up brother all of a sudden is like a miracle. At first we did not know what to say. But in a moment the bridge was built again between hearts. I like the way Sonni looks but I do not like the way Sonni struggles to know the truth. God must know her strength. He will not demand anything that is unjust or impossible.
I am going to try to see Sonni about once a month for maybe two days. It is a three and a half hour ride from Nuremberg to Stuttgart. The train fare back and forth was 9.30 DM (Marks).
The first night and day we were together we talked a lot and slept a little. On Sunday, August 30th, we made bicycle trip to Heimsheim, which I will always remember because it was so wonderful. Heimsheim is about 25 kilometers from Stuttgart. The pears and apples were ripening on the trees along the roadside, so we had plenty to eat. I surely ate a lot of fruit that day.
I am still puzzled how I could always again find more room. There is so much to be told, but for tonight I will close the chapter and wish you a good night.
I almost forgot, the SRF Magazine arrived today and also the package with writing paper and envelopes. Thanks a lot and may God bless you.