Peace Be With You All and Hope for a Wonderful New Year
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Tue, 24 Dec 1996 01:45:46 -0500
Eighty-one years ago today Europe was being convulsed by a terrible war
with shocking casualties on both sides. By Christmas Eve in 1915 both
sides had become well practiced in trench warfare. In many ways it was a
grim time and for many it seemed that hope was lost.
Yet on that night, a young German soldier somewhere along the line in
France sang out the words of a Christmas carol in his native tongue.
Others joined in and the canons and guns fell silent as all strained to hear
in a brief respite from the war. In answer an English soldier from Kent and
his comrades sang God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. The Germans began
singing Stilla Nacht (Silent Night) and the lads from Kent joined in
singing in English.
As the carols continued to fill the night in two tongues, another young
German soldier advanced unarmed across no-mans land with a flag of
truce. And one by one the men on both sides advanced unarmed into
no-mans land where they traded cigarettes, chocolates, and stories. Some
played soccer under the light of star shells and others brought musical
instruments to share in song.
In that brief night the frozen fields of France were warmed by the songs
of peace and hope. The First World War continued on for three more
years, and though not repeated again, this night was well remembered by all.
Some would later describe it as miraculous that there was such a
spontaneous laying down of arms among the soldiers. Others saw it as
evidence that even in the worst of times, we could still find a way to
be able to live in peace.
In my own religion's celebration of Christmas it is customary to exchange
happy greetings and the glad tidings of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All
Men. And as I consider the meaning of these tidings, it seems to me that
it is also a time to remember that another soldier whose fame was from an
earlier time was also hopeful that we might find a way to have peace on
earth and to have goodwill among all. Baden-Powell with death
approaching left a series of four letters to be opened after his passing.
In his letter addressed to brother Scouters and Guiders when the world
was again convulsed in a World War, he described the aim of the movement he
"Its aim is to produce healthy, happy, helpful citizens, of both sexes,
to eradicate the prevailing narrow self-interest, personal, political,
sectarian and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of
self-sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity; and thus to develop
mutual goodwill and co-operation not only within our own country but
abroad, between all countries.
"Experience shows that this consummation is no idle or fantastic dream,
but is a practicable possibility -- if we work for it; and it means, when
attained, peace, prosperity and happiness for all. . . ."
And so I would ask all of you to take inspiration from the Christmas Eve
experience in 1915 and BP's dying words to recognize that among us all
there is hope for peace and goodwill among all made more real by the love
we share for Scouting and Guiding around the globe.
Perhaps the greatest gifts exchanged during the year are the ones each of
you give to the young people you serve daily and weekly in Scout or Guide
meetings and activities. My thanks to all of you who have shared around
this virtual campfire over the last year and for all the wonderful things
you have done to deliver the promise of Scouting to young people. Peace
be with you all and may you enjoy a wonderful new year full of challenge
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
Dep.Dist.Commissioner-Training, G.W.Dist., NCAC, BSA (Virginia)
U. S. Scouting Service Project FTP Site Administrator (PC Area)
ftp1 or ftp2.scouter.com/usscouts E-mail: email@example.com
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City