Hello World!

Like many of you, I am spending this wonderful day with family, opening presents, and feeling ever so thankful for this life. The coffee is hot, the waffles are fresh, and the volume from my platoon of children ticks ever higher.

While I reflect on these moments, I remember that there are many in the world who don’t get to celebrate the holidays in the same way that I do. I also realize that not everyone shares the same beliefs I do, nor do they want to. Regardless of this reality, everyone deserves to have a blessed day. But not everyone will.

To the transient families who pass through hidden camps in the forest of my county, I wish you warmth, peace, and a permanent home. I don’t know all that you’ve experienced in life to this point, but I do know that you’re living in fear and hiding. No one should have to live this way. I long for a society that welcomes you, and I pray for continued strength of spirit.

To the homeless community around Sudley Road in Manassas, and all who have no home, I hope you all find peace, acceptance, and purpose. Whenever I give you food, or a Red Bull, or a cigarette, please know that I wish I could give you more. You’ve slept outside and have had to fight for what you have, even amongst yourselves. I know some of you are veterans, many suffer with substance abuse, and some of you are even running from your past. You deserve happiness.

To the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guards(wo)men, thank you for the sacrifices you make every day for this great country. I’m so thankful that many of you are home with your families, but I know that not all of you are. For those of you away from home, please know that I am thinking of you and wish you safety, peace, and a speedy return to your loved ones. As a veteran, I understand the sacrifices that you are making, and I am so very proud of you. You will always have a brother in me. For those of you who are home and feel alone, please know that you’re valuable to me.

To all veterans, some of you, my brothers- and sisters-in-arms, are struggling today. You’re lonely, you’re suffering, and you’re wondering why you gave much of your life to the defense of this country, just to find yourself alone now. Some of you wish you could go back and change the past. Some of you are wishing this current life were over, and I want to tell you that you’re loved. Your experiences are valuable, and you still have a purpose. Just because we’re not on the line anymore does not mean that we have no mission. I have felt that deceptive feeling, telling me that I’m no good anymore. Those feelings are not true and they will take you down a road of depression. Please reach out because there are tons of us who want to help.

To the first responders around the world in all countries, thank you for giving your lives to protect our communities. To the police officers, I pray you all come home safely to warm homes, loving family, and fullness of joy knowing that you make a difference every day, even if you are not treated that way by those you protect. To the firefighters, thank you for risking your lives every day, charging into some of the most dangerous and toxic situations to save and preserve the lives of those in your communities. I pray for your strength and courage, and for a safe return to the homes you have around the world. To the ambulance medics, I am so grateful for the care you provide to those who are clinging to life. I know you face death every day, and it’s not easy to watch someone pass. But no matter where you are, I thank you for standing up to fight for someone’s life when they literally can’t anymore. You are all blessings to your communities.

To the pilots, air crew, ground crew, TSA guards, tower operators, and all the forgotten people who make air travel possible, thanks. You have short or delayed holidays just to make it possible for the rest of us around the world to reunite with our friends and families. You are often not thanked for what you do, and that is sad. So let me say that I am grateful for you and I pray for your uplifted spirits and joy in the lives and loves you have.

To the leaders of my country, while I am often confused and frustrated by your politics, I also acknowledge that you were created by the same great God that created me, and I am grateful for your service to the country. To the President and first family, I hope you have a peaceful and rejuvenating holiday. To all Congressmen and Congresswomen, thank you for the difficulties you endure each day and I hope you have a restful holiday. To the judges at all levels, in all states, I pray for your wisdom and for respite during this season. To all local leaders, city managers, mayors, school board members, and governors, I pray for your rest and renewed vigor to lead and care for those in your spheres of influence.

To all teachers at all levels, as a father of eight with children at all stages in the education system, thank you for all you do each day with the future generations. You tolerate so much from our young ones and you love them so much. You don’t always receive the support you deserve from the systems you serve and I hope that changes. You all deserve this much needed break. I pray that someday we will pay you what you deserve for the challenging vocation you endure.

To all doctors and nurses who are manning hospitals and ERs this Christmas, who are taking care of our loved ones, accident victims, and drug overdose patients … thank you. What you do each day saves lives.

To all those who are persecuted for their faith, be they Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, or any other religion in the world, I am praying for your strength and peace as you endure torment. I stand with you and want nothing more than for you to have the freedom to worship as you choose. For those of you who renounce religion and despise those of us who don’t, I pray your holidays are peaceful, relaxing, and introspective.

To all religious leaders of all faiths, Love should guide your hearts as you minister to your flocks. You are feeling stressed, you are feeling hopeless, and you wonder how you will make it through another year. We depend on you, and God will strengthen you. Whether you’re a pastor or preacher or rabbi or imam or bishop or guru or priest, you are absolutely necessary to millions of us around the world who exercise our religious freedoms.

Finally, to anyone I’ve missed, please know I am thinking of and praying for you.

TO: the divorced dad who lost his kids in court; the single mom who was abandoned by her lover; the drunkard at the bar secretly wishing he didn’t have to drink; the victims of sexual and emotional abuse; the teens who just found out they’re pregnant; those who are enslaved by human trafficking; those kids who are in and out of foster homes; those who are buried in debt and don’t know how to support your kids; those blinded by anger and pride; those filled with hatred for other people; those living in poverty; those contemplating suicide and those who have already tried; those suffering from incurable diseases; and those who have never been loved…

I love you. I remember you. My heart longs to help you when I see you. I know that your Christmas is not going to be what you want it to be, but you are known, loved, and remembered by God.

May you all find Peace, Joy, and Love this season!