This year giving 'thanks' has special meaning

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mike Saylor
  • ARPC Director of Mission Support
Fall ... where leaves turn colors, temps get cooler, football games, the World Series and holidays galore! 

One of my favorites is Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving has vastly different meanings to different people. 

Traditionalists will tell you how the Pilgrims celebrated, thanking God for surviving the first, brutal year. Idealists will say that since the first celebration, in both times of war and peace, Americans gather with family and friends to give thanks for their blessings.
Today, however, it seems "giving thanks" has given way to commercialism and selfishness, to travel, overeating and football, the Day-After-Thanksgiving sales, and to family both the good and not so good memories, relationships and expectations.

What will Thanksgiving mean to you this year? Here are three propositions to consider:

First, there is much to be thankful for. A few years ago, I was deployed. During that year, I missed nearly every major holiday, birthday and anniversary. 

This year, ARPC has five Airmen currently deployed, and another will forego Thanksgiving so we can be home and be safe. And while we're stuffing ourselves, many of our brothers and sisters in arms will not be celebrating. They sacrificed their lives to bring others the freedoms so many take for granted. I, for one, will give thanks this year because freedom isn't free.

Second, focus on others. Yes, Thanksgiving is a time to share our blessings with our families, but no matter how strong, dysfunctional or nonexistent your family is, the holidays do not always bring out the best in people. 

Statistics show personal conflicts, depression and suicide attempts significantly increase during the holidays. Yet, the most amazing fact often goes unheralded. People who share their time, talents or money with those less fortunate receive just as much, if not more of a blessing than those they are trying to help. Our problems don't seem as big when we're helping someone else. Bottom line -- be a wingman for another Airman and be a friend to a fellow citizen.

Third, actions speak louder than words. Sitting at home moping? Need to get away from Aunt Sally's bickering? Take some positive action. Gather food and clothing for a neighbor or co-worker in need. Rethink your Combined Federal Campaign donation and fill out a card. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry. Suggest everyone at your table say one thing they are thankful for -- you start. Tell each of your co-workers at least one reason you are thankful to know and work with them. Even better, write each a note and don't tell them who it's from.

Throughout the holiday season, remember the true strength of America lies in each of us. When we, as Airmen and American citizens, seek out those who are hurting and lend a hand, we touch the lives of our fellow citizens and help make our nation and the world a better place. Now, please save me a slice of that sweet potato pie ...