I remember in great detail every Christmas of my childhood. Christmas was such a special time. It was the one time of the year when the family was certain to be reunited. Just the excitement of all of us being together was the only present my mom ever needed.
Many Christmases were interrupted for local families who had loved ones serving in combat in Vietnam. Some of those families had Christmas change forever when their soldiers never returned home.
One of our Christmas season traditions was watching Bob Hope doing his USO tour special for our troops overseas. It was always great to watch the laughter and smiles of the soldiers so far away from home and safety. I guess you might say that Bob Hope was appropriately named, because he was a little ray of hope to those troops fighting in the jungles and rice paddies in a hopeless political war.
I learned as a child from watching these shows that Christmas was about giving. I learned from my parents that Christmas was about togetherness.
I never remember Bob Hope passing out presents to the troops. I just remember him sharing laughter, music, entertainment and good times with our military. What Bob was able to give to so many could not possibly fit into a box. He had to love our troops and country to do what he did.
I guess you could say that in some respects he influenced me a great deal. He is possibly more responsible for the path my life has taken than even I realized before starting this article. I saw how important humor and laughter were to the world through his eyes.
Bob was a star, but, more importantly, he was a patriot. He was a gifted comedian, and he shared his talent. He sometimes put on shows in close proximity to combat. Today many of those shows would not happen, because many “stars” have contract clauses that forbid them to take on risky ventures.
Bob came from what we now call the Greatest Generation. The nation was full of patriots during World War II, and through their dedication, determination, pain, suffering and loss, we were able to defeat the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan. People from that generation of Americans had invested so much in the United States of America, that they felt almost contractually bound to see this country flourish at all cost.
Bob Hope was a bridge between generations of warriors, and he selflessly shared his talents. He was so connected to Hollywood that some of the biggest names in entertainment joined him on many USO tours. Being asked by Bob Hope to serve the troops was an honor to most, I’m certain.
Now that I am officially a senior citizen, I see so much that disturbs me. Children are taught to want more and more. Parents go overboard on Christmas, buying extravagant gifts and crippling their household budgets. Children are being taught that love equals how much you buy me.
Christmas is rapidly becoming Christobember. That is when Christmas decorations go up in retailer displays before Halloween even begins. To cast a negative light on Thanksgiving, we go to stores before Thanksgiving ends or the wee hours of the following day to buy, buy, buy for Christmas. It is a retail marketing trap that we all fell into decades ago. We think we can make every Christmas better than the last with material things and spending more.
Jesus brought love to this world. We really need to focus for a moment on the true “reason for the season!” Without love, we really don’t have a reason or will for being. Love fuels this world, not material things. Love is the greatest gift, the best gift, and the true gift. Anything beyond that amounts to worthless accessories.
Join a loved one, your family, or those you care about this holiday. Remember to share love, joy and peace with each other. Build and share a lifetime of treasured memories. I myself will share all these things with my family. When I recall my youth, I will have one more gift to share with them this year and that is hope.
Merry Christmas! I hope it’s a special one.