24 December 2010

Love actually is all around.

I was feeling pretty down about Christmas.  Being in Afghanistan can do that to you.  I was missing my family and friends.  I was trying to decide whether or not to go to mass tomorrow morning.  Part of me wanted to go to experience Christmas mass in Afghanistan with other soldiers who are missing their family and friends and praying for peace and holding onto that precious glimmer of faith...while the other half (the louder more obnoxious half) was screaming: just try to forget it's Christmas at all and pretend it's just another day!  I knew that living and working here would be a lesson in selflessness, but man, I wanted to be selfish!  I wanted my parents to send me presents, I wanted some sort of surprise, I wanted a grand Christmas just for me!  With none of that occurring, I was feeling crappy and started getting ready for bed.  I also put, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on repeat on my laptop.  Very bad idea, very very bad idea.  Have you really listened to those lyrics?  It's depressing!  I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams...I mean that's the stuff of popping some sleeping pills and trying to forget the next two days!  Anyway, I decided to check my e-mail and had one from my friend Steph.  She wrote the following:

I know you're probably having a really hard time right now with Christmas being tomorrow...I know I would be. But I'm glad you decided to work tomorrow instead of sitting in your room by yourself. I know you will make the Soldiers so happy on Christmas just by being your happy, bubbly self. And that's what they need now, but you do too. You guys need one another on the holidays.

She's right.  That line, "you guys need one another on the holidays," hit me like a sack of bricks.  I immediately thought of all my guys and how excited they'll be tomorrow and how I can't wait to hug 'em and give 'em a present from the USO.  I thought of how I'll wear some antlers and the Christmas trees I helped re-decorate today will be glowing.  I thought of how they would smile and then I thought of how it would make me smile.  Earlier today a soldier said, hey, can I have a hug, my sister told me I should get a hug for Christmas.  It was funny, so Cindy, my coworker and I gave him and his buddy a hug before they left and they were smiling from ear to ear.  These thoughts  started to reassure me, but not completely lift me out of my funk.

I closed the e-mail and walked down the hallway of my mod (modular housing unit) to the bathroom to get ready for bed and on the way back I saw a pair of combat boots outside a bedroom door.  I saw them earlier and thought why are those there, but ignored it.  This time it hit me.  I think I remember something about shoes outside doors on Christmas...something about St. Nick filling them with goodies!  After a quick google to make sure I wasn't making things up and this was a tradition, I started tearing through my drawers looking for treats from care packages others had sent me.  I found the M&Ms Lauren sent me, the peppermint patties Sarah Y gave me, the granola bar Sarah Y's mom sent me, the candy canes Sara D sent me, the chapstick Sarah R sent me, and the rice krispie treats Ang sent me.  The Rice Krispie treat wrapper had a section to write on it.  I scribbled, "Merry Christmas! Love, St. Nick."  I got so excited to fill those boots!  It filled me with so much giddiness, like a child opening their presents on Christmas!  I got to give someone else the feeling of Christmas.  They could've opened up their door to disappointment, but I got to help renew a lil hope.  

Now maybe I'm totally off course, and they really just had smelly boots, so they put them outside and they're going to say what in the world?! when they open the door and see the candy filled shoes, but maybe, just maybe, they were hoping for some sign of goodness and I confirmed it.  Maybe, God works in mysterious ways, and my horrible mood was first shifted by Steph's email that reminded me of why I'm here and then I was presented with an opportunity to fulfill that work.  Those boots had been there for hours, but I had been to ignorant and too self-involved in my own pity party to really see them.  

Life is full of boots in hallways, these signs that are unobtrusive in our world, but if we just quiet our selfish, busy, skeptical, selves for a little while we can truly see what they are there for.  

Merry Christmas!

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around. - Hugh Grant in Love Actually


  1. Tears! That's really all I can say right now.

  2. I can say that you're right on point with this one! Having been there, I remember just how nice it was to have the USO staff there for us. You should take comfort in knowing that, during this time; you and your staff are our heros!

    Have a Merry Christmas!

    Justin E. Abramo

  3. I always thought the cool thing about being deployed at Christmas is that everyone's away from home, and everyone's in it together. Everyone's missing someone and some holiday traditions, so you make your own and smile and make it as good as you can for someone. And you're doing that. Life IS full of boots in hallways, waiting for us to see and fill them. mn

  4. Sarah you are such a great writer and you really bring up some great points. It is easy to forget these things in our daily routines. There are opportunities all around to do good, but we just don't take the time to recognize them. I'm so glad that you took the opportunity to brighten someone's day. I have a feeling you do that a lot in your line of work. There's a quote I love by Mother Teresa that says "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” It reminds me that we have hundreds of interactions a day and we have two choices every time--to let someone leave you better/happier or not. Why not choose to make people happier?? Thanks for helping me remember this, Sarah! Keep the posts coming:)