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.