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NEWS | Dec. 11, 2015

Chaplains help people attain spiritual resilience during holidays

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

The joys of the holiday season can often be clouded by feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

These feelings can especially affect military members and their families during deployments and other periods of separation, young Airmen away from home for the first time and those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Mental health flights, military and family readiness centers, Military OneSource and other resources can help active-duty members and their families, as well as retirees, deal with the stressors of the season, but chaplains provide another perspective, helping people achieve spiritual resilience.

“We’re one of the pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Boyd, 502nd Air Base Wing. “We provide the ministerial aspect of it. The advice we give is through our faith perspective.”

Boyd, who has been assigned to the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Chaplain Office for three years, said his emphasis is on faith and family – turning outward – when he counsels people who are struggling during the holiday season.

“I believe that Christmas is not just about getting more stuff, and it isn’t just about decorating your house so that you can win the neighborhood lighting contest,” he said. “There is more to it than that. I believe that Christmas is the time where we can stop turning inward on ourselves and see that there is more to life than just fulfilling our own desires and wants.”

Boyd said Christmas celebrates “the coming of Christ into the world to save us from our sins.”

“Christmas is the time when we can turn outward and find value in God and other people, especially family,” he said. “Remembering that will help us see beyond the here and the now and find hope for our future.”

In addition to feeling isolated and lonely, people can experience anxiety because of financial obligations during the season. They may feel guilty because they don’t have the financial resources to buy the best gifts, or they may go into debt when they overspend.

“It is the time of year when our culture is telling us to buy more,” Boyd said. “How many commercials do we watch and how many emails do we receive every day that tell us that we won't be happy until we buy more stuff?

“I love to receive nice Christmas presents as much as anyone else,” he said. “But it isn't about getting stuff that matters.”

Boyd said Christmas provides an opportunity to follow Christ’s teachings and give rather than receive.

“Wouldn’t it be better if we used what we have to help those who do not have much?” he asked.

In addition to counseling Airmen who are missing their parents and feeling isolated and discouraged, the chaplain office helps provide opportunities for young active-duty members to “turn outward” through events like single Airmen’s dinners and holiday cookie drives.

When spouses are separated due to deployments, Boyd said chaplains help the spouses who are at home by offering help with yard work, vehicle issues and other everyday problems.

During the holidays, he encourages spouses who are separated to place unresolved issues “on the shelf” when they communicate, whether it’s through emails, letters, phone calls or Skype.

“Talk about the good things,” he said. “Look forward to the opportunities you have now.”

Boyd said the best advice he can give to people who are feeling lonely and stressed out by life “is that there is a God who loves you more than you can imagine and who sees the difficulties that you are going through.

“He is working behind the scenes through those difficulties and He will turn them into something good,” Boyd said. “Ask Him to help you and then when He does, remind those around you of where they can go to get His help too. Christmas is a reminder that He came so that you would not have to be alone, and He promised that He will never leave you or forsake you.”