The Day I Was Born

by Melannie Svoboda SND on September 12, 2016

I was born on September 16, 1944. It was a Saturday. My mother said I arrived just in time for lunch. But what was happening elsewhere in the world the day I was born? And did these events somehow influence who I became?

I was born in the midst of World War II, that massive armed conflict that killed more people than any other war in human history. On the day I was born the Allies launched a military operation called Operation Market Garden. The objective of the campaign was to secure a series of bridges in German-occupied Netherlands as well as those leading into Germany. Though initially successful (the Belgium town of Eeklo was liberated on my actual birth date), the campaign was ultimately a failure—due largely (some analysts say) to the weather. The failure of this campaign prevented the Allies from liberating northern Netherlands before the winter of ’44-’45, resulting in the horrific hongerwinter (Hunger Winter) in which tens of thousands of Dutch civilians died of cold and starvation.

The estimated casualties for Operation Market Garden, begun on my birth date and lasting until September 25, were 500 Dutch Civilians, 8,500 Germans, and 16,100 Allied Forces, including 3,700 Americans.

anne-frankTwo weeks before I was born, on September 2, 1944, Anne Frank and her family were placed on the last transport train from Westerbork, Netherlands to Auschwitz. Anne was eventually transferred to the concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen where she died of typhus in March 1945, just three months before Germany surrendered. One day in the future, when I was 14, I would read the diary she started writing on her 13th birthday while in hiding, and I would be forever inspired by her courage, idealism, and her amazing ability to put her thoughts and experiences into words.

The day I was born, U.S. Marines were fighting on Peleiu Island in the Pacific. In Europe, Soviet forces were advancing toward Riga, Latvia. The day I was born Adolf Hitler was meeting with his military advisers at Wolfsschanze in East Prussia. The day I was born Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were concluding their meeting in Quebec, a meeting that finalized their war strategy. And on the day I was born, Mahatma Gandhi was addressing a prayer meeting in Bombay.

I was born amid the carnage of war. While thousands of people were dying in horrible ways, I was being wrapped in a pink blanket and driven to the small farm tucked safely away in northeast Ohio where my sister and two brothers eagerly awaited my arrival. And there I would be fed and cared for by two loving parents. We were not, however, untouched by the war. No one was. My Dad, a tool and die maker, was working long hours helping to produce the massive fleet of airplanes needed in the war. My six uncles were all in the military fighting in various countries in Europe. And at my birth, I was issued a ration book which my mother saved. It lists my height as 21 inches and my weight as 7 lbs. 8 ozs.

We are all born into a particular time and place. Sometimes we foolishly wish we had been born earlier or later or elsewhere. But I have come to believe that each of us is born at exactly the right time and our birth date is all part of God’s providence for us. And in the times and places we find ourselves, God’s grace is always moving and stirring us to greater love.

We call God’s care for us Divine Providence. But belief in Divine Providence doesn’t mean we sit idly by and wait for God to do all the work. As the old proverb says, “God feeds the sparrows, but God doesn’t toss their food into their nests!” Instead, we must partner with Divine Providence and, using our personal resources, help to move the world toward greater wholeness and peace.

  1. What was happening in the world on the day you were born? (Check the internet or a history book).
  2. When and how have you experienced Divine Providence in your life?

God of Divine Providence, thank you for my birthday. 

Thank you for my parents who, with you, gave me the gift of life.

No picture was taken of me the day I was born. But here I am two years later.

No picture was taken of me the day I was born. But this one was taken two years later.

Thank you for all the blessings that nurtured my growing up

and for the hardships and challenges that played a role in my maturing.

May the celebration of every birthday remind me how precious time really is,

and may it encourage me to use my days well.

Help me to welcome babies and children into this world. And by partnering with you in small but steady ways, may I help to make this world a better place for all of us.

Amen.

 

This is a new song about Divine Providence by Jason Gray entitled “Sparrows.” It’s based on Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.”

Do you have any comments on today’s reflection? If so, we’d all love to hear from you!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Fran September 12, 2016 at 8:13 am

May you have a beautiful birthday and many blessings in the coming year !

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Kim September 12, 2016 at 10:05 am

Happy upcoming birthday! You were an adorable 2year old, thanks for sharing, it brought a smile to my face. Even then, you were all smiles.

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Ardy September 12, 2016 at 10:09 am

Very sweet pic of you as a little girl. You’ve inspired me to look into the day I was born. I love what you have to say about the sparrow and Divine Providence. Thank You! Happy Birthday Dear Melannie may God Bless his little sparrow on her special day.

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Mary Lou Pieczarka September 12, 2016 at 10:13 am

This song came to me at the right time.
I am suffering from depression right (know it will leave me soon)
Every day I feed my birds in my backyard. It has been so routine that I barely even think about.
But God knows and wants me to know that every day He feeds my soul, He thinks about His GREAT LOVE FOR ME.!!!!

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Pat September 12, 2016 at 11:16 am

Happy, Blessed Birthday, Sister Melannie! Another interesting, thoughtful reflection. Thank you so much for sharing your God-given talents with us each Monday & thru your books.
Pat

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Suzanne Sayer September 12, 2016 at 11:31 am

What a great reflection! Today is my birthday–I’m going to check the Internet to see what was happening the year I was born. Your prayer is especially meaningful to me. May The Lord bless you on your birthday and always.

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Patty September 12, 2016 at 11:41 am

Wishing you a Happy Birthday, as your special day approaches. “We turn not older with years, but newer everyday.” Emily Dickinson.

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Gerry beckmannt September 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

Thank You for your weekly work and your books. On your birthday please know what a gift you are to all who read your works. Blessings on your happy day.

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Annette September 12, 2016 at 11:53 am

Happy Birthday Sister! Have a happy and holy day!

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Fran September 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Happy upcoming Birthday! Grateful for the gift of YOU.

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Mary Therese September 12, 2016 at 1:13 pm

What a beautiful reflection. Life is precious. I spent this morning reading first year college student reflections about their early lives, and a few are heartbreaking. Having two parents who put their children first and make sure there is always food on the table no matter what the situation is truly a blessing.

Happy upcoming birthday Sister Melannie!

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Doris September 12, 2016 at 1:47 pm

What a great birthday reflection! I’m going to check into my own birth year. Happy Birthday! May you continue to grow older graciously.

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Peggy September 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Daily prayers and best wishes for a wonderful birthday and new year of life. I was born Dec.1,1941, and six days later Pearl Harbor happened. My husband of 56 years still says I am a disaster looking for a place to happen. I think he is teasing, but maybe not–he has had to fix or clean up a lot of my disasters!

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Pat September 12, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Happy Birthday, Melannie. Thank you and I thank God for your beautiful life ! You are able to see so much more with your life in context . A wonderful reflection as always. God continue to bless you I pray

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Karen September 12, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Where to start? On your birthday, my husbands Uncle was one of those Marines fighting in Peleiu. His experience in WWII influenced his calling to the priesthood and he was ordained in 1957.
I often send – along with a Congratulations on your new Baby” card – a listing of events that occurred on their baby’s birthdate (in any year). Its fascinating. See “This Day in History” or “On This Day” or “Born on this Day” sites.
Just two days before my birthday, Alan Shepherd became the first American in space, and as a result, I have always felt great kinship with NASA and the space program. And a few days prior to that, JFK established the Peace Corps.
My birthdate falls on VE day and I share a birthdate with Harry Truman, Oscar Hammerstein (and a bunch of other musicians) and Bishop Sheen.
Closer to home, my birthyear is the same year that the Geauga Park system was founded.
I agree with you that these shared birthdates and birthyears DO indeed shape us. But I always wonder … if I could be born into a different time (past or future) what would that be?

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Dianne September 12, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Not sure if my birth date is significant but I was baptized on Dec. 7, 1941. My family always told how they came home for Church and huddle around the radio==just listening and praying! So my birthday is special but the day of my Baptism definitely has a place in history!

Thank you for sharing your memories and wish you a very Happy Birthday!

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betty September 12, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Happy Birthday Sister Melanie!

My birth year was 1940, so your reflection on 9-16-44 sounds so familiar to what my parents related to me. Thank you.

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Anne September 12, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Happy birthday ! I look forward to your message every week .

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Annemarie Kall September 12, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Dear Melannie,
Happy Birthday! So glad you were born. Tomorrow we resume our poetry sessions using your JUST BECAUSE book. Thanks for enriching our world with your writing.

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Mike September 12, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Happy Birthday Sister! As always I really enjoy your blog. What a cute 2 year old!

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Sister Mary Eamon Lyng September 12, 2016 at 7:45 pm

I was born on September 14, 1945. Our birthday celebrations are close in time. I will be praying for you on your birthday. There was nothing recorded of historic interest on the date of my birthday. I have been greatly blessed with this special Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, a favorite theme and centering grace in my life.
A very Happy Birthday to you and I will have the Sisters praying for your special intentions.
Sr. Eamon

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Peggy September 12, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Many blessings on your birthday! Thank you for the goodness you share in your books and weekly reflections. I recall some WWII stories since I was born 9/20/43.

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Ruth E. Fichter September 14, 2016 at 11:23 am

I was born on April 13, 1944. My biological mother, Mary Sherman, was working in Sandusky, Ohio at Plum Brook Ordnance Works munitions factory, charged with the responsibility of manufacturing explosives trinitrotoluene (TNT), dinitrotoluene (DNT), and pentolite. The site produced more than one billion pounds of ordnance throughout World War II. She was recruited during her 2nd year in college (De Sales College – Toledo, Ohio ) because of her expertise in Chemistry. She never completed college but still went on to invent the rocket fuel Hydyne, the propellant which succeeded in launching America’s first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit on January 31, 1958. Her part in this was a secret from the world until after her death in 2004. BTW, Sr. Melannie, you met me yesterday and said goodbye to me in passing this morning at Lansing-Reilly.

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Cathy Baier September 17, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Wishing you a happy start to your new year!!

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Mary Fran September 18, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Thank you for sharing this. If gives such context to your life and much to think about each day as many new lives are welcomed into the world around the globe.
Mary Fran

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