GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Happy Holidays! I hear it again and again this time of year. Everyone wants me to have "happy holidays." People often throw out a "Merry Christmas" or occasionally a "Happy Hanukah." I even had someone toss me a "Blessed Boxing Day" one year. I had to look that one up, and oddly enough it has nothing to do with Rocky Balboa.
This year, I vowed not to be caught off-guard, so I did a wiki-study on everything from Diwali to Yule. I even squeezed in Feast of the Circumcision and Festivus, just to make sure all my bases were covered; there sure is an awful lot of diversity out there.
Now I'm ready. My wiki-brain is armed with a vast quantity of holiday season trivia just waiting to burst forth with a "Happy Fur Rondy," should I ever meet someone from Anchorage, Alaska. I am looking forward to showing off my new-found knowledge by wishing a Happy Tu Bishvat to my Jewish friend, Raphael, and a Merry Bhav Bij to my Hindu friend, Bandhu. I'll send an Eid ul-Adha card to Mehmet, if I can find one. I'll even call Andy, my Pagan friend, and wish him a Happy Winter Solstice.
I love the Air Force. As an Airman, I am surrounded by people every day who are absolutely not just like me. I am blessed to be part of a vast and diverse community where everyone truly wishes my family and me a happy holiday season filled with peace and joy, regardless of which holidays we observe and celebrate. That's the beauty of living the military life. We all wish one another well, regardless of race, religion and ethnicity. It wasn't like that in the small town I grew up in where we pretty much avoided anyone that wasn't absolutely just like us. For years, I never took the opportunity to wish my Eastern Orthodox neighbors a Merry Christmas on Jan. 7. It didn't even occur to me that I should.
But you know what? In spite of all this well-wishing, not everyone is feeling all that cheery this holiday season. Some of us are wondering, "Where is the joy? What happened to the peace?" As a chaplain, I hear angst in many of your voices and know that there is unease in many households and dormitories. Some are filled with anxiety as they spend their first holiday season separated from loved ones. Some are worried as they struggle with tech school academic requirements. I have spoken to dozens of military members and their families who expect to be separated by deployments during the holidays. Others are concerned that part-time jobs are scarce and there isn't much money in the bank this year for rent, much less for gifts. I have two friends looking for jobs in the local area and another two who expect to be laid off before the Chinese New Year (yeah, I learned about that one, too). And of course I offer my sympathies to all of you who are expecting an extended holiday visit from in-laws.
Someone you know that is absolutely not just like you is hurting this holiday season. Take care of your Wingman. Invite someone to dinner and an evening of watching sports on TV. Ask the spouse of a deployed colleague to share in your holiday celebration. Offer to babysit for the young couple who needs time away from their children to shop for gifts. Deliver cookies to the Crossroads Student Ministry Center or hot chocolate to the security forces members at the gates. Call your mom. You will never know how your kindness will touch the hearts of others, but it will surely spread the message that we are one family, watching out for one another, sharing our lives and investing in the lives of others.
Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, Democrat or Republican, you are a vital part of this diverse community. And just like me, you are blessed to be a critical element of this unique American experience of living and working alongside others that are absolutely not just like you, but wish you joy and peace this time of year just the same.
God bless you and have a Happy Zamenhof Day.