The two men glared at each other, their gazes level, their eyes narrowed. There was no telltale twitch of the finger or slight of hand, there was only the opponent each faced. Each man was convinced he was right, convinced that his way was the only way. Each held his weapon steady, no sign of hesitation or wince of apprehension. Neither jumped when the guns went off. No one cried when the two bodies hit the ground. Empty eyes stared into the distance, echoes of smiles on their lips. Both were certain, even to death, that they had won. Both had died for what they believed in.
In the empty field atop the bloodstained grass, what did it matter which side they were on? As lifeless fingers fell against the dirt, did it matter any longer who was right? What did their actions change, blank faces seemed to scream into the sky, but there was no one to hear them. There was no answer.
Looking at the scene, it could not be said, here lies a Nazi soldier and there lies an English soldier, or here lies an American and there lies a terrorist, or here lies a Democrat and there lies a Republican, or here lies a Catholic and there lies a Protestant, or here lies a free man and there lies a slave, or here lies a good man and there lies a villain. When it came down to it, there were simply two dead men, and as their blood soaked into the soil beneath vacant eyes, there was nothing to show for it. Here lies one dead man and their lies another. And still the world doesn’t change.
Ten miles away, a Jewish man holds open the door to a pub and settles down to a pint. A man comes up beside him.
“Mind if I take a seat?”
The German accent is heavy, but the Jewish man doesn’t notice. He smiles amiably and gestures to the chair beside him.
“Go on ahead.” With a quick wave of the hand, he motions the bartender over. The bartender, without so much as a glance, throws down two beers. Both men reach for their wallets, but the German man just smiles.
“I’ve got this one, but the next is on you, friend.”
As if they had known each other for years, the two men enjoy a comfortable silence as they sipped their drinks, sometimes exchanging a few words. By the end of the night, they bid each other a hearty farewell and pass on good wishes, a certain respect and camaraderie easing their steps.
In a way, by not conforming to past hatreds, the two men have changed the world.
Down the road, an elderly Protestant woman is gathering her money for tithe, stalling until the moment she’ll have to labor her way up the steps and into the church, when someone bumps into her from behind. The single action sends her purse sprawling, the contents littering the steps of the church behind her. The man who bumped into her is blushing furiously and stammering out an apology.
“I didn’t see you there! I’m so sorry!” He hastened to help her gather her belongings. When they were done, he stepped to the side and opened the door for her, helping her up the steps and into the church.
The woman thanks him profusely, and he apologizes once more before going on his way. A few minutes later, rosary at hand, he enters his own church and settles down to pray.
A few blocks away, the woman is entrenched in her own prayers, thanking God for the young man who helped her make her way into the church.
In a way, by not conforming to the enmity of the past, these two people have changed the world.
In the grocery store, a Christian man holds the door for a Muslim woman.
In a parking lot, the Hispanic man waves at the African American man as he passes by, letting the other man through.
In a school yard, a little boy in his pristine uniform with his polished shoes kneels on the ground to help a little girl in her only ragged uniform up off the ground from where she fell. He doesn’t seem to notice that while he has so much, she has so little. All he sees is that she needs help, and he offers her his chubby hand, his face plastered in a grin that shows the gap where his two front teeth used to be.
These people change the world. It is their kindness that makes a difference. We are all humans. We all fall down sometimes, whether black or white, rich or poor, Muslim or Catholic. It is not our ancestors feuds that make us, it is our ability to rise past them.
As the two men lie dead in the dirt, who was right?
The men in the pub. The man and the woman outside the church. The people in the grocery story. The men in the parking lot. The children on the playground. That is right.
As the two men lay dead in the dirt, we are all struck by the tragedy. Like a reoccurring nightmare, history has been caught in a loop. As the two men lie dead in the dirt, we know that things must change.
The two men glared at each other, their gazes level, their eyes narrowed. There was no telltale twitch of the finger or slight of hand, there was only the opponent each faced. Each man was convinced he was right, convinced that his way was the only way. Each held his weapon steady, no sign of hesitation or wince of apprehension. They lay down their cards.
“Two aces, I win!”
The other man concedes with a sigh.
“Up for another round?”
Somewhere in the world is an empty field where no men lie dead. Instead, there are two houses, both very different from each other, but inside each is a happy family and a loving wife who cooks dinner or reads a book while she waits for her husband to come home from his poker game. There is love in the patient glances towards the door. There are smiles as the woman cooking gently reminds her children that she is the only one who should be “stirring the pot.” When a knock echoes at the door, joyous cries will answer and there will be hugs and “how was your day, honey”‘s and warm, soft smiles.
Somewhere in the world, a field lies empty, and that is what is right.