‘Act of God’ is one episode name for Netflix’s The Crown series. It has haunted me since I watched it weeks ago. The Crown is a dramatization of the life of Queen Elizabeth II starting just prior to her ascent to the throne and continuing through the early years of her reign. However, it is not the major character, but a minor character used for storyline purposes that has kept me thinking about our mission in everyday life.
The episode takes place in December 1952 during the Great Smog over London. The fictional character Venetia Scott, a secretary to Winston Churchill, is inspired by his autobiography and wants her life to mean something. She bemoans the fact that all she does is put papers in front of the Prime Minister to sign and takes them away again. Churchill, at the same age, was pursuing a military career and making a difference. Scott sees an opportunity when she takes her roommate to the hospital for treatment due to the effects of the smog. The hospital is in chaos. She asks the doctor what is needed and tells him that she can help by putting in a word with the Prime Minister. The doctor scoffs at her suggestion, too overwhelmed by patients needing attention to give any to her. The doctor’s dismissive attitude fuels her passion for making a difference and she sets out to prove that she does have the ear of Churchill. Marching on her way towards Downing Street with that goal as her main focus, she is tragically cut down by a bus that fails to see her in the dense smog until it is too late.
My instinct was to look away from the screen rather than watch this horror. I didn’t want to see it, knowing that no one could survive that type of accident. I felt bad for the character who never had the chance to convince Churchill that this smog was not some weather phenomenon, but a crisis that needed his attention. While some of the details may be more fiction than fact, the life of Venetia Scott is portrayed as a bright spot for Churchill; so bright, that upon hearing of her death, he decides to visit the hospital morgue to pay his respects. Her death brings Churchill face-to-face with the crisis and the fact that people are in need of his help. Doing what a politician does well, he quickly orchestrates a media opportunity and delivers a speech declaring monetary support to help the victims. The example of Scott’s life, lived so brightly that it transcended her death, is the focus of my pondering. While the writers of the story may have intended the title “Act of God” to reference the great smog, it is the fulfillment of Scott’s mission to make a difference that is truly the act of God. He makes her life — and death — purpose-filled, for she succeeds in her mission in the end.
We are all called to mission, to serve others as brightly and boldly as we can. We cannot count the cost, since we can never truly measure the benefit to those whose lives we touch, directly or indirectly. Perhaps our impact will be felt by those we leave behind after we cease to live on earth; perhaps it will continue to grow as they keep the memory of our lives present in theirs.