Humans are not designed to live alone.  We are by nature designed to live together in community to reach our full potential.  English poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island.”   Our actions can influence everyone around us.  Lasting relationships are perhaps the key to a happy life.  It is one of the benefits of education and school as we meet and become friends with people.  Many of those friendships are lifelong relationships which can forever change your life.

In Christmas 1983, I was spending Christmas courtesy of the United States Marine Corps at the luxurious accommodations provided at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.  I was member of the Marine Air Support Squadron 2, nicknamed the “Pacific Vagabonds.” We were part of the Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.   It was perhaps the loneliest Christmas I had ever experienced.  Personally, I had lost numerous family members and friends.  I had just turned twenty years old.  And I was never more miserable in my life.

Fast forward 35 years, I am now a father and grandfather.  In the time since my days in the Marine Corps, I married my wife (whom I met in Junior High).  I have worked as a middle and high school teacher, worked for a governor and been a part of university and several think tanks and owned my own business.  There is no physical gift in the world that means more than me than actually being with my family.  No job or gift or experience matches that of grandchild yelling “Pappy” as they fly into my arms. The best gifts in life are never the ones you will find under a tree. 

Focus on your relationships.  Relationships develop when people spend time together.  Whether it is with friends or family, it is how you get to know people and how you become known to others.  Faith is also a relationship.  There remains hope for all of us.  It is never too late to change in life, until life is gone.   

Build relationships with those around you. Those relationships will bring more love to the world. Our self-worth is built in who we are in those relationships, not what we can accomplish in an occupation.  Good relationships are based on respect.  If you give up on people, you could miss out on something extraordinary. Never give up.  Live in the moment.  This Christmas give the gift of yourself to others.

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

JC Bowman 1983

In Christmas 1983, I was spending Christmas courtesy of the United States Marine Corps at the luxurious accommodations provided at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. I was member of the Marine Air Support Squadron 2, nicknamed the “Pacific Vagabonds,” We were part of the Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.   It was perhaps the loneliest Christmas I had ever experienced. Personally, I had lost numerous family members and friends.  I had just turned twenty years old.  Life is a cruel teacher. And I learned my lessons.   

Suicide is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. The Veterans Administration reports that an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. People who commit suicide often do not consider the emotional consequences for survivors, their families and friends. For depressed people, the holidays can be particularly difficult.   We experience added stress, loneliness and reminders of those we have loved and lost. If you have thoughts of suicide please get help immediately, or call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1–800–273–TALK (8255),24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you next find yourself in need of help, please ask someone.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee