Lt. John Gibson is the Carrier Air Wing One Chaplain stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. An active duty chaplain since May 2012, he is originally from Northwest Florida and resides with his family in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
When I think of popular holiday gifts, the first things that come to mind—after toys and fruitcake—are new tools. From routers and saws to wallpaper steamers, tools are staple items on wish lists and holiday shopping ads, awakening our urge to tackle home improvement projects and other “DIY” (do-it-yourself) ventures.
As a Wing chaplain, I can honestly say that I’m discovering new tools all of the time—literally! For example, unbeknownst to me until this past week, most military aircraft have small, metal “toolboxes” that are attached to the inside of the plane and are used for smaller aviation maintenance tasks. These small, convenient attachments go a long way toward helping maintenance crews ensure that planes fly optimally with few or no problems, essentially protecting readiness.
Similarly, we as human beings have “toolboxes.” Unlike the metal types with the socket wrenches and dozens of attachments inside, our tool boxes can be spiritual and personal in nature. And, like the toolboxes that accompany military planes, our personal toolboxes are designed to keep us optimally running against the strain and spiritual corrosion that life often brings. Simply stated, our toolboxes enable us to thrive.
As the holidays approach, many service members are reminded that the season can be a stressful or lonely time for a myriad of reasons. With that in mind, try adding these tools to your toolbox to strengthen your connections and bonds during the holiday season:
1) Surround yourself with people. This is particularly good advice if you are someone who enjoys, or is energized by, the company of others. A sense of community can warm even the coldest of moments. And maybe it sounds a little obvious, but it really isn’t a given just how little we tend to utilize the blessing of personal relationships. The military is the ideal context for putting this tool into practice, since we’re often surrounded by people in circumstances similar to our own. Reach out to others this holiday season and be willing to accept invitations when others reach out to you.
2) Continue holiday traditions to the best of your ability, or establish new ones. Most of us can probably recall special foods, activities or other traditions that were mainstays in our homes growing up. If so, try to keep those traditions going as best you can! Maybe have a family member send you some baked goods in the mail, or set aside a particular time to decorate a personal space while talking to your family via phone or Skype. Whatever your special activity may be, look for tools (creative, if necessary) to keep the tradition alive this year.
3) Put your faith into practice, and as you do so, look for ways to reach out and comfort others who may be struggling. Remember that the best way to alleviate your own struggles is to help others with theirs. Remember that God is with you and already knows your heart and the loneliness you may be struggling with this year. Pray to Him and depend on Him this holiday season. And as you do so, look for ways to reach out to and comfort others who may be struggling as well. Remember that the best way to alleviate your own struggles is to help others with theirs.
This holiday season, remember to use the tools for resiliency that God has given you.
We may not be able to use our tools for DIY projects around the house, but we can work on ourselves and, in turn, improve the lives of others. This holiday season, unwrap some new tools for resilience –and remember that life is the greatest gift of all. Live it fully!