Hold Them Close

By Kevin Shannahan

This Christmas Eve, I photographed each of our church’s three services. It made for a busy, but rewarding day given to contemplation during the downtime. As I have reached an age in which there is more in the rearview mirror than in the road ahead, events like this take on a particular significance. Age may, or may not, bring wisdom, but it does provide perspective, and if one is fortunate, understanding.

The Christmas season, perhaps more than any other, involves togetherness as family members and children return home, often from the first time in their lives that they have lived away from home. Over the years, I have enjoyed seeing young people whom I either taught or who were in my Scout Troop starting their journeys into adulthood and doing good things with their lives. I have been introduced to their wives or girlfriends, been to a few weddings, heard of their first jobs and college studies and seen some of their own families. The transformation over the course of a few years is a joy to see and it has been a singular honor to have played a part in it, however small.

As I sat in church, I thought of the past 26 years that I have lived in Louisiana, 25 of them not in the original plan. I must say it has been an eventful, and rewarding, time. I met my wife and married into a wonderful family. Our grandchildren have grown from babies to toddlers to young adults, seemingly in the blink of an eye. While I dearly miss chasing them around the house making dinosaur noises, I am equally looking forward to seeing their adult lives start to unfold.

My late father-in-law, a father, husband, grandfather and great grandfather, veteran and pillar of his family, church and community, will always be an example to me of what a husband-and man-should be. I am a far better man for having known him. Likewise, my first civilian job teaching in the Red River Parish schools gave me much more than I realized at the time, a chance to be of service, leave a situation a bit better than I found it and to be a part of something important. I owe them much, not the least of which was meeting the assistant principal of Springville Middle School, the woman who ruined my plan to leave Louisiana.

Many of my former students and Scouts have gone on to join the military. They are doing the hard and dangerous work of keeping our nation’s enemies at bay. Like their fellow soldiers, airmen and marines, some will be able to make it home for the holidays and some will not be able to. They may be soldiers, airmen, marines and fellow veterans, but I still see the youngsters they were when I had them in the classroom or in the Scout Troop.

The holiday season brings togetherness and allows us to take satisfaction in the passage of time. It shows us the truism of the fact that we raise our children for other people. One day, that toddler who loved nothing more than to be chased around the house by a monster (with the bonus of the noise annoying her grandmother no end) will become a superb young woman in her own right. Those young men in your Scout Troop will leave and go on to do good things, having found that the Scout Law is a good foundation for a worthy life.

As the season draws to a close, enjoy every minute! There is still much good in this world and it is up to us to preserve and build upon it as much as we are able.

6 thoughts on “Hold Them Close

  1. Thank you for your article. I am a Scout that joined the Navy immediately upon graduation from high school. Twelve years later I found myself in the woods of Camp A. P. Hill, somewhere in Virginia, suffering through the Navy’s Escape and Evasion School, short title Survival School. My classmates and I were divided into ten squads of ten men each. I was the squad leader of my squad. After a week of running around in the woods, dirty, hungry, and trying to get from point A to point B and then on to C, D, etc. without being captured. Because of my Scout training, my squad was the only squad that evaded capture much to the unhappiness of those trying to capture us. All those wonderful Scout camping trips and the lessons learned were recalled when I really needed them.

  2. Wonderful article! 2 of my sons were asked about their Eagle Scout project & values learned from scouting during their interviews for Medical School. They both became physicians & now are practicing medicine in Natchitoches. Scout leaders like you can have an awesome influence on young people!

  3. Wonderful article, Kevin. It is so true, that when you blink children become adults, embarking on lives of their own, having children of their own, and so on. Every day is precious to someone in our lives, even a person who is in our life for but a moment. This is a reminder to love one another, as Jesus has said. That way, the world will know we are His followers. And with that, we show God’s Love for them in the moment we share.

  4. Thanks for this article. You are reaping the rewards of being a teacher and Scout leader. We affect so many lives, and those we mentored never forget what we did. I was going to be in Natchitoches for 2 hears. That would have me leaving in 1970. I’m still here and am thankful that I was able to teach and mentor many students in my 45 years at NSU.

  5. Well said Kevin. I remember years ago when my girls were toddlers, I was told to enjoy every minute with them because in a blink of an eye they’ll be adults with lives of their own.

  6. great article keith… i feel about the same way was captured by a local girl and have never left this parish.. although i swore to my self that i would be gone and not have any regrets and all that hooey…
    thanks for your imput

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