The holiday season … will your light shine brightly?

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- With Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and a host of other celebrations underway, it's become a tradition to decorate our homes, offices and public places.

Nearly every holiday theme includes colorful lights.

Drive down main street, and you'll see countless displays in shop windows, hanging on the street posts and adorning homes everywhere in the neighborhoods.

These lights really add some "sparkle" to the season, and help us all share in the celebrations.

But where did the tradition of using lights come from? What do all these lights really represent? \As you can imagine, the list of explanations is long and varied, but I have a favorite.

This story tells of a farmer, deep in the woods, huddled around the fireplace with his family in the middle of a big winter storm. The wind howled outside, and reached down through the chimney, fanning the flames.

Before long, the wood supply ran low, and the farmer decided to brave the storm and head outside to gather more wood. He bundled up and headed out.

He didn't think he would have far to go, but in the blowing snow, he lost sight of his home and struggled to find his way back.

The family was worried when he did not return in a few minutes and called out to him from the doorway.

All they heard was the howling wind, and found no sign of him.

Fearing he was lost, they decided to help him find his way home by putting candles in the windows and even tried to attach candles to the trees around the house.

The storm blew the candles out almost immediately, but the family kept trying.

As the storm subsided, they were able to light everything in and around the house.

They kept lighting candles all night, until, out from the dark forest, "father" appeared.

He was lost but saw the lights from a distance and found his way home.

And so it goes, the tradition of decorating with lights began.

I can't speak to the validity of the story, but like so many tales, you can find deeper meanings.

This story speaks of family, determination, self sacrifice and, most importantly, how those in trouble will look for, and find comfort in, "light." In my mind, the story makes reference to a choice we all face. Where will we set our "lights?" How many, and for how long? The family in the story started by putting candles in the window. This act represents igniting an "inner light" first. I can't think of a more relevant theme for this holiday season.

While we have enjoyed a banner year at AEDC, it hasn't been easy for everyone. Although our test and support programs have once again delivered magnificently, we have suffered losses in our workforce, and in our families. For many, this season may not bring the joys we would all wish we could share. Thankfully, there is a way. Now is the time for all of us to crank up our "inner lights."

AEDC is many things to many people, but above all, we are a family. And just like the family in the story, we need to put our lights out for all to see, particularly those who can use a little light in their lives.

It can be as simple as greeting a colleague in the hall, or heading across the "sea of cubes" to wish someone a happy holiday season.

Maybe you can do more.

Join an activity at your church, volunteer to "ring the bell" at the mall or pitch in to help care for someone when their family member is deployed.

In all of these examples, it starts with a personal decision to put another's need before our own.

That's the essence of the inner light.

Not only will you make a difference in someone's life, you will inspire others to do the same. It spreads like wildfire.

As I have said on so many occasions, this is truly a special place, and it always comes down to the people in our AEDC family.

The inner lights here shine more brightly than anywhere else I've ever been.

It's been a real blessing to lead this organization in 2010, and I'm looking forward to another fantastic year in 2011.

I can't thank you all enough for making this assignment the highlight of my 25+ years.
Rebecca, Michael, Reanna and I wish you all a blessed holiday and, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas!