Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

COLUMBUS AFB, Miss. -- We often ponder as to what this title really means. It can mean different things to different people. I would like to share with you what it means to me in an effort to point out how fortunate we really are in the United States military. After the tornado of two weeks ago when some of our Air Force family lost their homes; I contemplated what was truly important in my life. I examined every area of my life from whether or not I have a place to live, my family and my job, to the niceties that I seem to "have" to have. My conclusion was surprising even to me. 

This weekend I helped one of my fellow 14th Mission Support Squadron family members' gather and store her personal items from her house that was struck by the F3 tornado. I found myself reflecting upon my wants versus my needs. Instead of complaining that I don't have this or that for my house or worrying if I would be able to give my children an above ground pool this summer, I should appreciate the fact that I still have an intact home. Why is it that many of us can't just be appreciative of what we have? What is it about our society that makes us feel we have to have it and we have to have it right now? Most of us are willing to go in debt and max out our credit cards in order to have the newest gadget or gizmo. Wanting the newest television is not a bad thing. But why can't we save for it. Instead, most of us reach for the plastic so that we can experience the instant gratification of having our "wants" met now. Obviously, this leads to the credit problem we face in America today but that's a subject for another day. It can also lead to working more in order to pay off the debt accrued from fulfilling our "wants". Most of us don't stop and evaluate what we will have to sacrifice in order to appease our insatiable desire for more. Often, it is the very people we are trying to provide for that are hurt in this pursuit: our family. 

Our family can be one of the easiest things to take for granted. For a married person, can you imagine coming home to an empty house with no spouse and children to greet you? Personally, after 17 years of marriage, I can't imagine what that would be like. Those who are single pay a price as well. Many are so busy working in order to obtain "more" that they either don't have the time or don't take the time to make room for romance in their lives. This, too, can become a cycle. Working all the time to come home to an empty house feeds the need to fill the loneliness with more "things". Time for friends or a love life often gets put on the back burner. Take a moment to reflect upon who you spend most of your leave time with? The answer for most of us is---family. What's the moral of the story? Don't take your family for granted or you may just be sitting at your retirement ceremony with no one to thank because they aren't there anymore. For the non-shift worker, it's so easy to spend more than 12 hours a day at work but realistically where will your family be when it comes time for retirement? This leads me into the next area of discussion, which is the job. 

According to many of the Air Force Chief of Staff surveys in the last seven years or so, recognition is the lowest rated area of the whole survey. With the Air Force of today at 300,000 compared to the Air Force of yesterday (1986), 500,000, we have almost 50 percent less people than we did back then. However, we are tenfold busier today in the Air Force than we were in 1986. When people are doing more with less, many times we expect recognition on a grand scale. Often we are not satisfied with a simple thank you or maybe a couple of hours off when it's not so busy. We end up seeking recognition in an economy that is growing increasingly unstable. Instead of being worried that our efforts go unrecognized, shouldn't we just be happy that we have a job? Don't get me wrong, many of us didn't join the Air Force, whether we're military or civilian, just because it was a job. The point to this is that we all need recognition to make us feel like we are doing something good. But should we dwell on it when we don't get it? And that is inclusive of the ultimate recognition to which we all strive: promotion. 

Whether you are enlisted, an officer or a civilian employee, most of us have a desire to get promoted to those often seemingly unattainable ranks such as Chief Master Sgt, Colonel or GS-15. I can only speak for Chief Master Sgt but there is a reason why only one percent of the Air Force enlisted are Chiefs. This simply means that not everyone is going to get there. Keep your goals and strive to meet those goals but if you don't make it don't beat yourself up over it and please don't lose your family trying to get there. 

We all should be more content with what we have. It's OK to want to improve your life and the lives of your loved ones. But don't forget to look around in appreciation for what you already have. I'm reminded of an email Christmas card I received. It said: "If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep then you are richer than 75 percent of the world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and change in a dish somewhere then you are among the top eight percent of the worlds wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness then you are better off than the millions who will not survive until the end of this week." The bottom line is this: appreciate what you have, strive to meet your goals but don't let your striving rob you of what you already have.