Let me begin this visit with you by offering my best wishes to you for a happy and joyous holiday season. For some of us a Merry Christmas is the way to go, while for others best wishes for the joy of Hanukkah will be most appropriate. This is one of those years when these two long-staying holidays share the same time and space in our lives. Please allow me to offer you the joy of the season for you and your families.
As many of you know, one of my favorite things to do in life is to play my tuba for one of the bands with which I am joyously associated. The holiday season is really neat. Our groups have played a number of concerts over the past two weeks and the music has been most enjoyable and fun to perform. The response from the audiences has been really great. It makes a boy feel really great to be a part of these musical ensembles.
With these things in mind, my thoughts turned to holiday giving in church the other day. It was my privilege to carry forward the gifts my wife and I had purchased for the Colts Neck Reformed Church's annual giving program, as well as some other gifts which had been left in the rear of the church. Giving is good my friends. Sharing one's gifts adds something special to our lives each and every time we do it. Singing hymns and giving gifts made the day's experience truly memorable.
Let me share a bit of personal information with you. One of my favorite band pieces comes from the world of the Shaker religious experience. It is a piece entitled Simple Gifts. The song, written in 1848, was largely unknown outside of Shaker communities until it became world famous thanks to its use in Aaron Copeland's score for Martha Graham's ballet Appalachian Spring which was first performed back in 1944. You might have heard it on television, since it was the opening music for the CBS Reports program.
As I sat listening to our Pastor Scott Brown speak about the gift of a humble God, the tune to this beautiful, simple song began to run through my mind. In a holiday world gone crazy with the concept of bigger, better, and more expensive, it began to dawn on me that there is a simple gift which you and I can request this year. It is a really simple gift for each of us. And it has great value for one and all.
Let me suggest that each of us ask for the gift of another year to do what we love to do: Love and serve our families, and love and serve our communities in the fire service. Yes, it is as simple as that, and if you think about it, each of the above is as much a family as the other. We must work to make things better in each world.
All of us have a responsibility to do our best here on earth. It is fairly easy to understand our role in the life of our own families. We are here for them. We give them our love and support. We provide for them, watch out for them, and take care of them. Or at least that is how it should be. Where it isn't, let me offer a prayer for you that things get back on track. You only get one shot at the living of your life here on God's Green Earth.
So too should it be with your experience within your local fire department. Your fire department should be like another family in your life. You spend lots of time at the fire station. You work hard at clean up sessions. You drill together to improve and insure that your skill set is the best it can be. You occasionally risk your lives one for another in the performance of your emergency duties. At least that is how it has been over the course of my nearly five decades in the business.
Perhaps I have yet to grow beyond the naive, Pollyanna phase of life, but that is just the way I am. However, that is who I am. I have a pal who takes great delight in calling me "little Harry Sunshine." I do not mind this. Like many of you, I have taken my shots from others during my time here on earth. That is just the way it is.