|Photo courtesy of historynet.com|
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21 (NIV)
I was online checking out campgrounds in the Allegheny National Forest when I came across an interesting bit of information about the Red Bridge Campground near Bradford: “The recreation area is located near the site of a former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) unit known as Camp #3. The camp stood from 1933 until 1946. During World War II, it was used as a German Prisoner-of-War Camp.”*
What? A POW camp here in Pennsylvania?
My writer’s mind was intrigued. I researched further and learned that over 400,000 POWs, mostly German, were housed in close to 500 camps throughout the United States. Twenty-two POW camps were scattered throughout Pennsylvania, including in Kane, Marienville, and Sheffield in the Allegheny National Forest.
The United States abided by the terms of the Geneva Convention, so the prisoners were treated well. One prisoner gained more than 50 pounds during his stay. Less than 10-percent were hard-core Nazis, and there were few escape attempts.
They came at a time America was experiencing a severe shortage of labor—her men were overseas fighting the enemy. So the POWs were put to work—for pay, of course (the government receiving most of it)—on farms, in factories, and wherever they were needed. They built garages, harvested crops, stacked hay, cut timber. Some even sat at the dinner table with the families for whom they worked.
“Having a chance to be shoulder-to-shoulder with [the prisoners], you got to know them,” recalled Mel Luetchens, who was but a young boy on his family’s farm in Nebraska at the time. “They were people like us.”**
Yes, at first there was mistrust, but the arrangement worked. Lifetime friendships were forged. In my research, I read of POWs who fell in love, POWs who, after being sent back to their homeland after the war, returned to America to make new lives for themselves.
“Love your enemies,” Jesus commands us (Luke 6:35). “Do good to them.”
Is there anyone you see as an enemy? Perhaps “enemy” is a strong term. Maybe there’s someone who seems to thrive on making your life miserable. No matter how pleasant you are, you receive only hurtful remarks and treatment in return.
I once read of a woman—let’s say her name was Mary—who had a co-worker like this. So one day Mary showed up with a plate of homemade cookies, which she gave to her tormenter.
“Oh, how did you know chocolate chip cookies are my favorite?” the woman said.
The woman’s attitude improved, and the two became friends. Mary later learned the woman was going through a difficult time in her life.
You can play the one-upmanship game, but that will only lead to more and bigger hurt. Or you can refuse to retaliate. You just don’t know what that person is going through. Everyone, I’ve learned, has “stuff” they’re dealing with.
“When you know people as human beings up close and understand about their lives,” said Luetchens, “it really alters your view of people and the view of your own world.”
Help me, Lord, to treat others the way I want to be treated—no matter how badly they treat me. Fill my heart with Your love, compassion, and understanding. Amen.
More tea: Read Luke 6:27–36