Editor’s note: State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, currently is in Iraq as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. He began his service there in September. He is reporting weekly on the activities at his location, and today he shares a special Christmas Day column with our readers. His column resumes its usual Tuesday publication next week. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas this year for me has been like the famous novel "A Tale of Two Cities," which begins with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
In my case, the worst of times is pretty obvious. I am separated from my family and friends this Christmas, and that is hard.
However, it is also the best of times in which I have gained some insight into some things that I probably would never have thought about if I had not been gone during this time.
I have learned that the people of Gainesville, Hall County and North Georgia are some of the best people in the whole world. I have been blessed by so many of you who have sent boxes, e-mails, letters and your prayers. I can never repay you for the joy that you brought every time a package has arrived or an e-mail was placed in my inbox. I also have learned, along with many over here, that the things that matter the most will never come with a price tag.
I have found an appreciation this year for the simple aspects of this season that I hope will stay with me forever. I miss the mass of people at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. I miss being at my mom and dad’s house for Christmas to share the season with them. I have missed going to my in-laws with all the cakes and great times. I miss the lights that I know are all over the place for all to share. I have missed the cantatas sung by wonderful choirs.
In all that I have missed, however, I have found some things as well. I have found that deep down I really do like Christmas music, but I especially like the ones that talk about being home for the holidays. I have found a deeper appreciation for the wonderful Christmas story found in the Bible. It is humbling to know that just a few hundred miles from where I have taught over the past few months the shepherds were minding the sheep in the field when they were told of the birth of Jesus.
I have found an even greater desire to tell those in my life who mean so much that I love them more and more. I have found that in sharing your story with others who also are far from home you can help each other get through the night. I have been amazed that given little tools you can string lights that look pretty amazing from some of the most broken-down of structures.
But the thing I have learned anew this Christmas is that it is Christmas truly in the eye of the beholder. Christmas may be marked with lights, ribbons and bows. But the true meaning of Christmas is that God gave to us his greatest gift. It did not take a trip to the desert to remind me of that — it just took the trip to strip away the jaded adult blinders that time and worry place on people’s faces.
I hope and pray that as you spend this Christmas — whether it be with friends or maybe alone — let each of us realize that Christmas is a reminder that we are not alone; we have been given a gift.
I would like to wish Lisa, Jordan, Copelan and Cameron the best Christmas ever. I love each of you more than you will ever know. I may not be with you in body but I am always with you in my dreams. Thanks for being the best family a guy could ever ask for. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Now to all of you, have a wonderful Christmas Day!