It is often hard to find diaries written by young men and boys. So today I’d like to highlight a great diary kept by a young man, Thomas Whitaker, of Waltham, Massachusetts. Thomas began recording daily entries in 1874, when he was 17 years old, and the volume continues through 1878. He filled the entire diary, so it is possible he continued his daily record keeping past 1878 in subsequent volumes. Thomas writes of his hobbies including stereoscopes, the circus, and music lessons, and of his work life at a textile mill where he oiled looms. He also reflects frequently on his spiritual well-being and growth. Thomas interestingly was nondenominational, attending services at Universalists, Episcopal, Methodist, Congregational, Unitarian and Baptist churches.
Most of Thomas’ reflective entries occur on the milestones of his birthdays and the approaching New Years. In honor of our own New Year’s celebrations, I’ll share Thomas’ entry from December 31st, 1878. It seems as though Thomas had a hard year, but he remains ever positive.
Another closing year draws nigh. Two or three hours more, and old 1878 will have past out of existence. At such times as this we cannot help but review the past. As we look over the past year the thought comes to us what have we accomplished during the year or what progress have we made. As far as our Temporal progress is concerned We have gone backward. Our crops have been a failure or at least our wheat has and we have received but very little from our corn. We never experienced such hard times for a number of years. Poverty seems to surround us on every side. We have had our trials during the past few months – humiliation – Disgrace – and a lack of clothing to shield us from the Western winter – has been among our greatest trials. We have had good health plenty of food and many other things to be thankful for. And we would not complain for I firmly believe that these things are all working together for our good. I think I can see good from it. I believe it draws us nearer to God – and makes us feel our dependence on Him, We have all learnt valuable lessons during the year which I think will be for our future good.