Yesterday was no big deal. Sundays aren’t really supposed to be. It was a sleep in and go to church, come home and eat, take a nap during the football game kind of day. The best day.
And it was Veteran’s Day. Big deal around here. There are quite a few veterans in this small town and the mountains and hollers around it, and yesterday that stood up in our churches and accepted our thanks and ate half price at our restaurants. This is a good thing. I was too young to remember the end of the Vietnam War, but I know the stories of what many of our soldiers faced when they came home. It’s nice that whatever our politics may be, this country can unite around those who’ve fought and died just so we can have the right to disagree.
One more thing about yesterday:
My wife and I fully intend to take care of Christmas early this year. No last minute scrambling for gifts, no tardiness on Christmas cards. Get it done and done quick, then just sit back and enjoy. That’s our plan. So yesterday we told the kids it’s time for wish lists.
Reading over those (Legos and a 3DS for him, books and more books for her) made me think of something else that tied in a roundabout way to Veterans. It happened on the Western Front around Christmas in 1914, in the midst of World War I. And though no American forces were involved, I still want to share it. It goes to a larger story, I think. One about all of us.
In that week leading up to Christmas, fighting in the trenches between German and British soldiers slackened. Enough, in fact, that soldiers from both countries would even walk across no-man’s land bearing gifts. Season’s greetings were exchanged. And in those brief but welcomed moments between the gunfire, soldiers often heard the singing of carols. It all culminated on the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day almost a hundred years ago, when both sides decided on their own that war simply wasn’t right. They joined together for those two those days not as enemies, but as human beings. There were joint ceremonies to bury the dead. There was even a friendly soccer match.
The war went on after that, of course. There were attempts the following year for another Christmas truce, but it was not as widespread. The generals—ones who strategized and ordered but rarely fought and bled—prohibited it. Poison gas began to be used. The levels of fighting and dying greatly increased. Each side began to view the other as less than human.
I thought about that a lot on Sunday, sitting there in my comfortable living room with my family around me and the sun shining outside.
I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for those who’ve fought and died for me. And yet even as I give thanks I also mourn for the families left shattered, both by those who never returned from war, and those who went to war thinking they’d never return only to come home and not survive the peace they deserved.
I understand this is a mean world. I know there are people and nations who want nothing more than to see the end of this country, and I thank God daily that I can work and rest and play thanks to the men and women who wear our uniform and bear our flag.
I am not a pacifist. Yet I wish for peace, even as I know that peace will never come.
But I wonder what would happen if all the men in all the wars that rage upon this earth would one day decide war simply wasn’t right. I wonder what would happen if we saw everyone as human. People who struggle and hurt and dream and love just as we do.