THE FOLLOWING STORY IS BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS.
For the past five months, you and your country has been embedded in what would soon be known as “The Great War.” You are deep in the trenches – even though this is one of the first times the world had ever used such warfare. It’s bitterly cold. You sit in this trench. Your back is up against the muddy dirt that is the planet, which is now at war.
This night is December 24th, 1914.
Just yesterday, you were shooting at your enemy, the German soldiers. They too were deep in their own trench. Just yesterday, your best friend was shot in the head. He collapsed beside you as you took your shots at the enemy forces.
Enraged at the sight of that death, another friend of yours stormed out of the trench and entered “No Man’s Land.” You witness him being captured by the German forces. Enraged yourself, you continue to shoot blindly at the gunfire that’s coming towards you. Filled with too many emotions, you grin at the sight of any less return fire you see relinquish after you fire your own shots.
But tonight, things are quiet. It’s been a relatively calm day. You, yourself hadn’t needed to fire a single shot from your rifle. A piece of mud drips off of the side of the trench. It splashes on your shoulder. Startled at first, you do your best to examine the situation only to realize that you have not been wounded whatsoever.
Mere moments later, you hear off in the distance the sound of singing. The enemy forces are, seemingly rejoicing in what was a sound victory the day before. As you hear their words and being unable to translate them, you start to recognize the melody.
100 yards or so away, you hear the words:
Alles ist ruhig
Alles ist hell
You chime in with the melody as soon as you can. You, yourself, begin to sing – “Silent night, Holy night.” Your squad mates begin to sing along with you. Both sides of this war are singing the same song. Seemingly simultaneously.
This “silent night” calms you. You haven’t been this relaxed since the war began. And for the first time in months, with your back against the earth, you begin to fall into the deepest sleep.
The sun’s heat rains down as your body is shaken and you hear the words, “Oi, mate!” Your fellow soldier is attempting to wake you up. “You must see this!” He proclaims. “You won’t believe your bleedin’ eyes!” He shouts once more as he gives you a final shake to ensure that you’ve been woken.
Once you’re awake you peek your head out of the trench. What you witness can not be described. You’re in total shock. You’re in awe. The commander of your unit is standing in front of the enemy’s first in command. Other soldiers surround them.
Everywhere you look you see both sides shaking hands.
You are awestruck at the very sight of all of this.
Still unbelieving, you see soldiers on both sides exchanging would-be gifts. They’re bartering for cigarettes. They’re sharing laughs. And, would you know it, someone had brought a football to the battlefield. An impromptu football match has begun!
There’s no more doubts in your mind. You want to kick that ball around. You’re willing to risk being shot in the process. You finally climb out of that trench and begin to head towards that damn football. You’re going to kick it, no matter what. If it’s the last thing you do – you’re going to kick that damn football and have some enjoyment out of this war that spawned out of the assassination of some Arch Duke that you couldn’t care about.
Before you can reach the field, a German soldier stops you.
You panic at first. The words spew out of his mouth over and over and over again. “Sie müssen dies haben! Sie müssen dies haben! Sie müssen dies haben!” You have no idea what he’s on about. But in his hand, reaching out to you is a photograph. A photograph of his family. Tears come to his eyes as he says once again, “Sie müssen dies haben!”
You realize that he’s offering you a gift. You search your pockets. You pat yourself down. You run your fingers through every piece of lint that’s a part of your clothing. You realize that there is nothing you have to offer this man. But again, he demands, “Sie müssen dies haben!”
You give him a grin. That’s all that you have to offer. And you take that photograph from his grasp. The two of you share a hug. With an arm around each others’ shoulders you march your way towards the football match. But that’s when you see it.
There is an exchange of prisoners. The friend of yours that stormed off just two days ago is released. You rush towards him.