Today is the anniversary of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to General U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va. We had the privilege of traveling to Appomattox for the 150th anniversary last year. One thing I took away from the trip (besides red Virginia mud!) was a new appreciation for Gen. Grant and the way he handled the surrender. I touched on this briefly last week, but wanted to share some more thoughts on the topic.
Gen. Lee and his army were the enemy. But Gen. Grant recognized that they were now his countrymen again. He gave the Confederates generous terms, and every decision was designed to promote recovery (allowing them to take their horses or mules to work their farms) and peace (ordering his own men not to cheer and rub it in). He even had rations issued to feed the starving soldiers. Because Gen. Grant saw his enemy as human beings and not just defeated foes, healing began immediately after the end of the fiercely-fought war.
What do you think? As you think about your life and the people you disagree with, would you be able to set aside past disagreements and take that first step towards reconciliation and healing? Are we able to see the humanity in people we have fought with, whether a spouse or an enemy combatant, and show them kindness instead of rubbing it in? Gen. Grant could not change the heart of a nation, but he did what he could to start the healing. We can follow his example and take that first step forward in our own relationships, towards healing.