Updated: Dec 26, 2018
Jim Marshall, 911 Training Institute
I could not let Christmas go by without you folks being part of it. The 911 Family has become such a personal part of my life that when I think about the real meaning of Christmas, it brings me back to you, with enormous thanksgiving and affection. So I wanted to offer a Christmas wish to you, which is also a prayer, involving four things.
My first wish is for you to experience PEACE. As I've traveled to Communication Centers, and to our industry conferences, I've enjoyed talking one-on-one with dispatchers and our 911 leaders. I've heard so many stories: hard things happening in your comm centers; loved ones lost; the incredible stress of your job; and, struggles in relationships. We experience many things that make it really hard to feel deep peace.
Then we come into the Christmas season: it is difficult to muster "Peace" amidst the flurry and stress of all the holiday logistics, and especially because many of us have been battling, slogging our ways through some very hard times in the months leading up to Christmas. So for us, this raises the question: where does our peace come from?
Peace of mind certainly can't rely on everything being great in our personal lives or at work. That's like building a house on a foundation of sand! Nor do I see peace as the absence of conflict, as some seamless state of nirvana--feeling 100% calm or tranquil. Instead I see peace as being grounded in a sense, a knowing--however wavering my knowing may be down here South of Heaven-- that there is something or Someone at work within even our toughest, seemingly most senseless struggles; someone who is going to help us through it all. And that ultimately, things will be okay. This is a Peace found in a small seed of faith. There's actually great cause for believing in this type of peace, and it can grow as we water it. One way to do this is to check out Youtube videos of those who have had NDEs--Near Death Experiences. Very encouraging!
For sure, no one can feel deep peace constantly, but we can return to it again and again to be encouraged and fortified. So, my first wish is that you can embrace this kind of Peace.
Secondly, I wish for you COMFORT. For many of us, there is heartache and pain that is very deep and doesn't go away. The deeper the pain, the deeper the hurt. A magic wand doesn't make it all better. What do we do with our pain, especially during Christmas time, when there is such pressure to be joyful and positive? What do we do to find comfort? I wish for you the comfort of knowing you are loved; that you are accepted and valued for who you are, as you are. It can be a great comfort to remind ourselves that we have people in our lives who, however imperfectly, love and care about us this way. Our lighted Christmas trees, at their most meaningful, remind us that even in darkness there is also light. and that brings us to my third Christmas wish for you...
HOPE. When we've gone through incredibly hard things in our lives, we can become discouraged and cynical. It's hard to stay optimistic and positive when we go through a lot of hard things in life and they pile up over many years. Remarkably, as a long-time trauma therapist, I found hope in the most unlikely places--or should I say, people: through the years, there were so many moments in which I felt the full weight of my clients' despair. With some who were the most broken, I found myself on a few occasions, wondering as we toiled together, How will they ever make it beyond this to a better life? But then, when we least suspected it, a breakthrough would come, however small, and you could see the spark of hope ignited again; and through time, these sparks became a strong light within them. My most despairing clients became my greatest teachers and sources of inspiration!
So, my third wish for you this Christmas is to have Hope: a believing in that which is yet unseen. I hope that that you will look and find Hope in the smallest moments, the most unlikely places: watching someone we care about who has suffered much, finally break out in big laughter; in one small note of encouragement from somebody reminding us that they're thinking about us--proof that we're not alone.
And finally, I wish for you to have JOY. If we've strained for too long in tough circumstances, it's very hard to find any cause for joy, let alone feel it! Frankly, sometimes I've had to hunt to find it! I believe one of the most reliable places we can find Joy when it seems most elusive, is in recalling that for which we feel grateful. When we're able to key-in on those things that are good, even the smallest gestures of generosity we've received from someone, it can re-energize us and shift our mindsets. So, it is helpful to ask ourselves: who in our lives do we feel grateful for? What do we have that we're fortunate to have? At Christmas and holiday time, we don't need to manufacture joy; there may be good and a deep cause for it within our reach.
Peace, Comfort, Hope and Joy to you, this Christmas, my 911 Family. Wherever you are serving, I hope these thoughts bless you. I'll look forward to seeing you in the New Year!