The Fourth of July is a joyous time when we focus on the amazing country we live in and how it came about and the freedom we enjoy, thanks to the foresight of the Founders. But this year, this holiday seems to be yet another opportunity to hold protests and counter-protests. There is a lot of hate in this country on all sides of all issues. But, even if a person is right, how should they respond to someone with a different opinion? With shouting? Grumbling and back-biting? Physical confrontation? The “silent treatment”? Spite? What is the correct response to someone we don’t agree with?
On July 2, 1863, the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry stood to the right of the 20th Maine on Little Round Top. In the ranks, Pvt. Philip Grine could not help but notice the wounded Confederates lying stranded between the firing lines. They were the enemy, but their plight bothered him. During a lull in the fighting, he left what cover he had with his regiment and entered the “no man’s land” between the lines.
Reaching a wounded Confederate, he carried the man back to the 83rd’s lines, where the man was taken to the rear and the field hospital. Not satisfied with helping only one, Pvt. Grine rescued a second wounded Confederate. Later in the fighting, the exhausted soldier asked his comrades for help to retrieve a third enemy soldier. Some agreed, but when the Confederates fired at them, they scurried back to the regiment. Pvt. Grine continued on, alone. But he never returned. When the fighting ended, he and the man he was trying to save were found, both dead.
Would you risk your life to save someone who does not share your beliefs? Someone who was, a moment ago, fighting you with everything they had? Pvt. Grine looked past outward circumstances and saw the Confederates as fellow men, just as worthy of living as he. Perhaps that is what it really means to “love your enemy”—to see him as a fellow human, and to value that life. Pvt. Grine considered his personal safety less important than the life of a wounded enemy and he paid the ultimate price for his beliefs, but his actions give us a beautiful picture of what it really means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
No matter what you believe, perhaps we can all agree on one thing: the world truly would be a better place if we had the compassion of Philip Grine and valued all humans—not just the ones we like—more than we value ourselves.