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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday, Christmas Post: The Hope of No Mans Land 2020

“You come half-way. I come half-way.” – Unknown British Sargent from a trench on Christmas Eve 1914, Bois de Ploegsteert Belgium

I sit here in the early morning hours of December 25th writing my weekly gratitude Friday post. I started writing these posts on social media maybe five years ago and turned it into a blog this year. Grateful for the generous gift of this web site created by Julie Miller as a Christmas present. I have found it somewhat therapeutic to reflect on gratitude and share it like this, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

The famed Christmas Eve truce of 1914 has been much written about yet it still proves irresistible to me at this moment in our history. What the Germans thought at the outset would be a decisive campaign leading to quick victory soon became mired down and fought in trenches for years. Thousands of lives were lost for a few yards of ground, only for the same ground to be regained by the other side for the same meaningless costs in human life.

This was called trench warfare. We hated the Axis powers and they hated us. We have dug our own trenches in our own era.

But amidst that was this famed truce, where for a few minutes, the soldiers had a brief moment of peace with each other in the Hell of no mans land. The soldiers traded songs, tobacco and wine, joining in a spontaneous holiday party on that cold night in that desolate place.

World War One altered world history in ways that are recognizable even today. The “winner” was the United States, who largely stayed out of combat until late in the war and profited off the major combatants. It was a war of attrition and it led to the Great Depression across the globe in the next decade.

Yes, history does echo, and the sounds are ominous for us now. This may not seem like a gratitude post thus far but thinking of those soldiers in the trenches of death and despair who rose above all of those challenges and just for a moment recognized each other as humans with common bonds, sharing pictures of loved ones back at home for an hour or two. It shows that we can rise above hatred.

One can see why this is so irresistible to write about. It brings us hope in difficult times.

We recall such moments as they remind us that we can rise above all of our differences and really see each other. We are wired to be tribal and sometimes this puts us in some really destructive spaces. Sharing our common bonds and transcending our differences is particularly important for our mutual wellbeing. We are all better off when we lead with love.

If they could find it within themselves to find peace and connection as they lay in their trenches, so can we. I am grateful for a new day and the opportunity to look at things with fresh eyes and remember their example to us. We share such common ground as humans. Love of family, community, art music, and the pursuit of something better for those we care about. The notion of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

We have all been through a lot of battles in our lives to get to where we are today, even as we huddle in our own proverbial trenches. No matter what our differences, we share far more in common than the minutia that separates us. We love our families and cherish time with people we love. May the spirit of the Christmas truce a century ago be our reminder to come together and recognize that we share common bonds and shared destiny.

Peace on earth and good will to all who read this. I am grateful for the reminder of the wisdom to seek common ground and the binds of humanity we all share.

What are you grateful for today?

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