It's Military Family Appreciation month. Each year around this time, I'm asked how individuals, businesses or communities can show their appreciation and gratitude to military families. This year was no exception. I feel like I say the same things year after year; donate to a military charity, tell a military family thanks, mow a lawn for a military wife whose husband is deployed. I had a hard time coming up with a different or simple answer to the question this year.
But most questions do indeed have answers, and I found mine last week after watching a pre-game show which featured an interview with Kansas City Chief's quarterback, Matt Castle. Castle did something special for the Joplin Eagles, the local high school football team who found themselves without a high school, a football field, homes and even without friends and parents, some of whom were killed during the tornado. If you missed the show, you missed something special:
Matt Castle gave this football team a pre-game speech, stood on the sidelines during the game and interacted with the team. He gave them the gift of time. His time.
My work at Walter Reed with Sew Much Comfort taught me that money is important and donations to organizations which help improve the lives of our service members are vital. But after witnessing the work of hundreds of volunteers there, it also taught me that time is the most valuable commodity you have, and is the most valuable gift you can give.
A few years ago, I was with over 300 military spouses at a SpouseBUZZ LIVE event. We were told that a couple of celebrities were in the building and decided there was no harm in asking them if they could pop in just for a minute to say hello and give the ladies a nice surprise. One celebrity pointed out that he is paid for his time and refused the request. Fair enough. But another celebrity couldn't get to the room fast enough. And when he did, Billy Blanks took to the stage and gave one of the most motivational and inspiring speeches I've ever heard, impromptu or otherwise. Additionally, he hung around to take photos and sign autographs. He didn't leave until every last spouse had what they wanted from him.
Fast forward two years when we were at another SpouseBUZZ LIVE event and yet another celebrity sighting occurred. And once again, the celebrity graciously and happily popped in. And wow, did he bring the house down.
Money is easy to give for those who have it in spades. And it helps, and it's generous whether one can afford to give or not. But time is a precious commodity and you only give it to people and projects which are the most important to you.
Just as those boys from Joplin High School will always remember spending time with Matt Castle, the spouses who heard from Billy Blanks and Sinbad will always remember their impromptu appearances. But you don't have to be a celebrity for your time to matter. Whether you're a volunteer at the USO or are a Maine Troop greeter or spend your weekends with critically injured troops, your time makes a huge difference in the lives of military families.
So my answer this year, and each year hereafter, is time. There are numerous ways in which time can be spent showing your appreciation for service members and their families. What could be a better gift than giving someone that which you cherish most?