January 25th

QUICK, Mordochka!  Time to get up! I have a wonderful secret to tell you because I know how much you love secrets. Ready? The secret is what war can’t destroy. Now listen to this story and you’ll see what I mean.  

m tabatabael

Photo courtesy M. Tabatabael, Unsplash!


     There was a soldier in World War I who was from England and had been sent to the front in France. The front was the most dangerous place you could be sent to fight. It was September 1916.  The British soldiers had been ordered to leave their trenches and charge across what was called “no man’s land” to attack the enemy. The soldier this story is about ran through all the horrible gun fire, through all the smoke and noise, and then, suddenly, found himself looking down into a German trench. But, confusingly, the trench wasn’t filled with soldiers. There was only a blond, teenage boy all alone. His helmet was flipped over in the mud, not even protecting his head. His gun was at his side and his hands folded in his lap. His blue eyes looked up at the British soldier with tears in them. In all the noise and chaos of the fighting, the two of them were all alone, in an amazing way, looking into each other’s eyes.

     The British soldier slowly lowered his gun, gently put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and then ran off through the battle . . . through the war . . . and, finally, returned home. The soldier remembered lots of things from those horrible days but, more than them all, he remembered that boy, hands folded, and silent.

     Now jump ahead 25 years, Mordochka. It’s now World War II and the retired British soldier was at his home, sitting on a white bench in front of his house. The Germans had been bombing cities in England and, on their way back to Germany, they flew across the English countryside. They flew very low and targeted homes with their machine gun fire. 

     On this particular day, the retired soldier looked up from his white bench and saw a German fighter plane appear in the sky, flying right toward his house, with his machine gun aimed at him. He didn’t move but closed his eyes, with his hands in his lap—and waited. At that moment, Mordochka, he was given a memory more powerful than even the roar of the approaching fighter plane.  He remembered his hand gently touching the shoulder of a young, frightened German boy:  the gift of mercy in the midst of war.  

     And then there was complete silence. The fighter plane had banked hard and flown away.

—Story by Godfrey John, originally published in The Christian Science Monitor, 1994, 
brought to our attention by a friend of Mordochka’s, and retold here.

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