Last night I watched an old Christmas movie called Silent Night. It is based on a true story of a German mother and her young son who make a home in a rural log cabin during WWII. Three American soldiers come upon it looking for shelter for the night. She welcomes them in and soon a bond is forged when 3 German soldiers come on the scene --dismayed by what they consider a treasonous situation. However, she manages to dispell their anger and wisely offers them refuge as well-- insisting that all hostility be abandoned on this most holy of nights - Christmas Eve.
You may have seen it before. In my opinion, it is worth seeing again. I found it so inspiring to watch and listen to the German woman, who with her bold and wise words, is able to mediate a peaceful Christmas Eve between the two mortal enemies of WWII. Though there were tense moments on that Christmas between the German and American soldiers, they do manage a truce of sorts even though the German officer finds diffculty with it--especially when he sees the German cross of valour poking out of the pack of the American soldier who, ironically, is the most peace-loving of the bunch.
However, this woman of indominatable courage manges to dissipate his furious anger and all is well until a German soldier appears masquerating as an American soldier. This new twist causes danger to the Americans, but you will have to see the movie if you want to know how this plays out. The one thing I can tell you is that the next morning each group goes its own separate way -- but with a new found and healthy respect for the other.
I also found some little Christmas stories in the December Catholic Digest
which I shall not be renewing. But I thought I would share a couple of the
poignant ones from it. Christmas stories always seem to have a happy
ending --despite the often sad circumstances which surround them. And
thankfully, so they should.
Years ago I remember reading about this wonderful Catholic skipper who made it to a Korean coast during the 1950's conflict where he found just too many S. Koreans stranded and desperate to distance themselves from the invading North Korean Communists. Somehow - only God knows how -he manages to get them all on his freighter and they steam away safely to a friendly harbor to disembark just in time for Christmas. This exceptional skipper later became either a Brother or a Priest in Boston. I was surprised that when choosing this topic, he immediately came to mind, but obviously he made a deep impression on me.
And then, I often think of the Kansas City Santa - a businessman who spent
Christmases giving out $100 bills to the needy in this lucky city. He has died
since but not before appointing a surrogate Santa to keep up this tradition.
Would that there be such Santas the nation over! However, I'm sure that
there are some who respond in different ways to spread the love and peace
of this holy Christmas season.
Now a story from the December Catholic Digest 2008 entitled "Snowed in at
the airport" by Jeanne Knape. Several years ago Jeanne was booked on a flight from Kansas to Washington D.C. to visit her grandniece and her husband. They were missionaries in China and were only going to be in the states for a few days.
The weather was not cooperating and flight after flight was canceled. As
the weather worsened, tempers became short. And Jeanne realized that
her only chance was on one of 4 remaining flights. She decided to read the
book she brought along in her tote bag when she spotted the box filled
with the raspberry chocolate cookies she had made for her nieces and nephews.
She opened the box to eat one and then decided to offer one to the lady next to her. Well, you can guess the rest. Short tempers dissipated as she opened that box of very special labor-intensive cookies with expensive ingredients to her frustrated and fellow weary travelers - some with children. Somehow, that kind gesture of sharing those cookies with these very discouraged people brought smiles of pleasure and gratitude as they partook of this delicious tidbit. Before long other people began sharing either a Christmas box of chocolates or other goodies meant for family and friends but now offered in a Christmas spirit of sharing with their fellow stranded travelers.
As Jeanne was never able to get a boarding pass to Washington D.C.,
she left the airport for home two hours later - feeling good and warm inside --knowing that she had helped to turn the holiday which was going so wrong into something special.
Another story of celebrating the true meaning of Christmas also happened in an airport - this one in Lansing, Michigan. It is appropriately entitled "The unexpected Christmas gift" and was written by John Schneider.
Maria Rozel, an airline agent, encountered a problem with a ticket held by a
woman on her way to Atlanta to visit her seriously ill sister. The husband of the sick woman was not available to verify the credit card transaction and so the woman had no ticket or the means to buy one.
A well-dressed excecutive-type man approached the airline agent clearly
upset because he missed his plane when he realized she was still busy
with the woman in front of him who was in tears. But this seeming grouch, overhearing part of the conversation, offered to use his frequent flyer points to buy the woman a round-trip ticket to Atlanta. The grateful woman said that she didn't need a round trip ticket because she was going to drive her sister's four children back to Lansing with her. Kansas must have a lot of big-hearted businessmen because, hearing this - he offered all his accumulated 125,000 frequent flyer points to cover the return flight of the lady and her sister's four children. He said he didn't want a woman driving all the way back to Lansing in potentially bad weather.
Reading this, I unabashedly cried. There are good people in this world and it seems Christmas brings out the best in many of them.
The last Christmas story I will recount from this Catholic Digest is "The
soldiers who brought Christmas treats" by Curt Melliger. He retells the story of December of 1944 --somewhere in France where his father, an Army sergeant, found himself in the final, bitter cold winter of World War II during
one of the coldest winters of the last 50 years.
Thirty German divisions had taken Allied forces by surprise -storming through the Ardennes forest, creating a bulge in the Allied front. Hitler's final gamble would be the single biggest and bloodiest battle of the war, but the Battle of the Bulge would also produce acts of bravery as well as a moving simple one of kindness.
In subfreezing temperatures along the line, Curt's father and his platoon
holed up in a tiny almost demolished village. They had nothing to eat except C-rations and these were not nearly as good as the modern day MRE (meals ready to eat.) However, the sliced peaches in syrup and the chocolate brownies were considered edible.