Paul and two other American soldiers escaped their German captors at Peterswald, Germany during the final days of World War 2. The three men were heading west just ahead of the advancing Russians, trying to get to the American lines.
Many of the citizens of Peterswald fled their homes to hide in the woods and hills around the town, hoping to escape the rampage of the Russians. The Russian soldiers did come, along with Czehs, Poles and Jugoslavs, all raiding the vacated homes and taking away everything of value.
Paul and the other Americans watched. One pillager said to them, “You don’t want to be sittn’ down on a day like this, you never get another chance like this one. You’re the victors, you know, you’ve a ... good right to anything you like.”
The Americans weren’t sure, but they did decide to go take a look inside a house. Judging by the shabby condition of the residence, Paul figured the occupants were a poor family, so there probably wasn’t much inside to take even before the first pillagers raided the place. Sure enough, by the time the three Americans looked the house over, nothing was left. But, they did find a pair of children’s crutches leaning against a wall.
Paul and his companions decided to check out the small barn behind the house. It, too, seemed empty, until he heard a gentle rustle. Inside a rabbit hutch he saw one white bunny, “twinkling his pink nose and breathing quickly” (p.150). “Dinner!” Paul thought immediately.
Paul had never killed a rabbit with his bare hands before and was a bit perplexed about how he would do it. He found a tool and was able to dispatch the animal with it. Then, he skinned the rabbit in the barn and carried it off to safe place for he and his buddies to cook it on an open fire.
From their campsite Paul noticed an old man and woman and a small crippled boy return to the house. “The woman wept and the man shook his head.” The little boy “was moving toward the barn as swiftly as his crutches could carry him.” Paul said the boy disappeared into the barn for a painfully long time. He heard a shriek, then saw the boy come to the door of the barn, “carrying the soft white pelt with him. He rubbed it against his cheek, and then sank to the doorsill to bury his face in the fur and sob his heart out” (p.151).
When the rabbit was cooked one of the soldiers prayed, “Our Father, we thank thee for this food thou hast set before us” (p.152). Paul’s two companions accumulated a fair share of treasure on the way back to the American lines. All he could justify taking with him was a bent and rusty sword. (Kurt Vonnegut, “Spoils,” in Armageddon in Retrospect).
American WW 2 Veteran and former POW in Germany Kurt Vonnegut wrote that story out of deep sympathy for the suffering of the people he saw as the enemy. He fought the soldiers, he was captured by them, and he suffered in captivity. But he still kept a part of his humanity, and after the war wrote stories about his experiences. Moving stories.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies ...” (Matthew 5:43-44). I don’t always know how to do that. It is a challenge. But, you can feel the attempt in Kurt’s story about the rabbit and the little boy.
Today, there may be someone you are upset with, even intensely angry. They feel like the enemy, and may be. Thoughts of getting even may obsess you. But pause a moment. You know what you would like to do, and you know what you should do. There is a battle within your heart. Which side will you give the most attention to? Which side will win?
The introduction on the website to this video reads: Everyone Hurts If you think drinking and driving is something you can get away with you need to watch this video several times until you understand that Everyone Hurts when someone else drives drunk. If you have a drinking problem please seek help at your local AA chapter. The video is a twenty year compilation of drinking and driving ads with some intense scenes from Transport Accident Commission Victoria. If you have suffered a personal tragedy related to drinking and driving you have my sympathy and heartfelt sorrow for your loss.