In the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, a young German soldier lies in a crater taking cover from military fire. Suddenly, a French soldier leaps into the same crater, taking cover also. The German youth bayonets and kills him. This is the first man he has killed and he wonders what his name is. Seeing a wallet in the dead man’s pocket, he takes it out. In it is a photograph of a young mother holding a child. The German gets a lump in his throat. The dead man may be an enemy, but he is first of all a father and husband like himself—someone who loves and is loved. The German had never looked at the French like this and it makes him wonder about war and all that is associated with it. This scene powerfully emphasizes that too often we forget the common humanity that unites us all. Our tendency is to pay more attention to what makes someone different from us than what we have in common as human persons, all created by the same God who loves each one of us a special child. The things that make us different like nationality and culture and even religion are certainly important and help define us as persons. But those things are secondary to what makes all of us human. We all strive to be happy, to love our family and friends, to want to do meaningful work, to discover God and the meaning of our lives. If we could understand our common humanity and see that in one another before we see the differences, would we be less likely to be enemies and then would the world be more what The Lord intends it to be? I think so.
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