Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

The Night God Came To Dinner

Expand Messages
  • Sue Cifelli
    The Night God Came to Dinner Adapted from a story by Rod Ohira Fritz Vincken owns a bakery just outside of downtown Honolulu. He dispenses warmth and a smile
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      The Night God Came to Dinner
      Adapted from a story by Rod Ohira

      Fritz Vincken owns a bakery just outside of downtown
      Honolulu. He dispenses warmth and a smile along with hot buns and
      fresh bread to his loyal customers. Fritz has lived in the Hawaiian
      islands for many years now, and when he first arrived he was
      enchanted by the kindness and goodwill of the Islands' people. When
      asked, however, he admits that for him, the ideal of aloha was first
      learned long ago - when he was a lad of twelve.
      The setting was on the other side of the world from Hawai'i, on
      a harsh winter night in the Ardennes Forest near the German-Belgian
      border. It was December, and two months had passed since Hubert
      Vincken brought his wife and his son Fritz to a small cottage in the
      Ardennes Forest for their safety. The family's home and its
      eighty-eight-year-old bakery in Aachen (Aix-La-Chapelle) had been
      destroyed in a bombing raid.
      "We were isolated," Fritz recalled. "Every three or four days,
      my father would ride out from town on his bicycle to bring us
      food. When the snow came, he had to stop." His mother was concerned
      that their food was in very short supply, as the war seemed to be
      moving closer to their cottage of refuge.
      By late December the cottage was no longer out of harm's
      way. German troops surprised and overwhelmed the Allies on December
      16, turning the Ardennes Forest into a killing field.
      On Christmas Eve, Elisabeth and Fritz tried to block out the
      distant sound of gunfire as they sat down to their supper of oatmeal
      and potatoes.
      "At that moment, I heard human voices outside, speaking
      quietly," Fritz remembered. "Mother blew out the little candle on
      the table and we waited in fearful silence.
      "There was a knock at the door. Then another. When my mother
      opened the door, two men were standing outside. They spoke a strange
      language and pointed to a third man sitting in the snow with a bullet
      wound in his upper leg. We knew they were American soldiers. They
      were cold and weary.
      "I was frightened and wondered what in the world my mother would
      do. She hesitated for a moment. Then she motioned the soldiers into
      the cottage, turned to me and said, 'Get six more potatoes from the shed.'"
      Elisabeth and one of the American soldiers were able to converse
      in French, and from him they learned news about the German
      offensive. The soldier and his comrades had become separated from
      their battalion and had wandered for three days in the snowy Ardennes
      Forest, hiding from the Germans. Hungry and exhausted, they were so
      grateful for this stranger's kindness.
      A short time later that evening, four more tired soldiers came
      to the cottage. However, these men were German.
      "Now I was almost paralyzed with fear," Fritz recalled. "While
      I stood and stared in disbelief, my mother took the situation into
      her hands. I had always looked up to my mother and was proud to be
      her son. But in the moments that followed, she became my hero."
      "Frohliche Weihnachten," Elisabeth said to the German soldiers,
      wishing them Merry Christmas. She then invited them to dinner.
      But before allowing them in, Elisabeth informed them she had
      other guests inside that they might not consider as friends.
      "She reminded them that it was Christmas Eve," Fritz said, "and
      told them sternly there would be no shooting around here." These
      soldiers, still mere boys, listened respectfully to this kind and
      mature woman.
      The German soldiers agreed to store their weapons in the
      shed. Elisabeth then quickly went inside to collect the weapons from
      the American soldiers and locked them up securely.
      "At first, it was very tense," Fritz said.
      Two of the German soldiers were about sixteen years old and
      another was a medical student who spoke some English. Although there
      was little food to offer, Elisabeth knew that everyone must be very
      hungry. She sent Fritz outside to fetch the rooster he had captured
      several weeks earlier.
      "When I returned," Fritz recalled, "the German medical student
      was looking after the wounded American, assuring him that the cold
      had prevented infection.
      "The tension among them gradually disappeared. One of the
      Germans offered a loaf of rye bread, and one of the Americans
      presented instant coffee to share. By then the men were eager to
      eat, and Mother beckoned them to the table. We all were seated as
      she said grace.
      "'Komm, Herr Jesus,'" she prayed, 'and be our guest.' "There
      were tears in her eyes," Fritz said, "and as I looked around the
      table, I saw that the battle-weary soldiers were filled with
      emotion. Their thoughts seemed to be many, many miles away.
      "Now they were boys again, some from America, some from Germany,
      all far from home."
      Soon after dinner, the soldiers fell asleep in their heavy
      coats. The next morning, they exchanged Christmas greetings and
      everyone helped make a stretcher for the wounded American.
      "The German soldiers then advised the Americans how to find
      their unit," Fritz said. "My mother gave the men back their weapons
      and said she would pray for their safety. At that moment, she had
      become a mother to them all. She asked them to be very careful and
      told them, 'I hope someday you will return home safely to where you
      belong. May God bless and watch over you.'"
      The soldiers shook hands and marched off in opposite
      directions. It was the last time Fritz or his mother would ever see
      any of them.
      Throughout her life, Elisabeth Vincken would often say, "God was
      at our table" when she talked of that night in the forest.
      Fritz eventually came to live in Hawai'i and continued to carry
      this childhood lesson of brotherhood in his heart. He realized that
      being kind to one another and seeing beyond differences is a
      universal value, but he was surprised to discover that Hawai'i
      actually had a word for this ideal - aloha. When he thinks of aloha,
      he remembers that night long ago when everyone was welcome at the table.

      Reprinted by permission of Rod Ohira (c) 2000 from Chicken Soup from
      the Soul of Hawai'i by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Sharon
      Linnea and Robin Stephens Rohr.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.