As 2013 draws to a close, Gayle and I want to wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
All of us are so blessed, as Americans and as West Virginians. And that is never more apparent than during the holidays as we share our blessings with others.
So many West Virginians spend the holiday season giving their time, energy and resources without hesitation, whether it is contributing to Toys for Tots or serving food at a local shelter or visiting seniors at our county centers.
It is the spirit of giving that warms our hearts and souls and makes the Christmas lights seem brighter, the Yule colors more brilliant and the sounds of the season more joyful.
Our servicemen and women are far from the holiday sights and sounds. They are holding vigil where there is no peace. But their vigil is what makes our peace possible. So let us keep them in our prayers this Christmas and every day. They are out of our sight, but never out of our hearts.
The traditions of Christmas give the season a nostalgic glow, and quite naturally, we look back on all the past holidays we have spent with families and friends, especially those of our childhood. I am filled with warm memories of my childhood Christmases in the little town of Farmington, particularly the sheer delight of Christmas mornings and the wonder of the presents under the tree.
But as I revisit those wonderful times, it is with a clear understanding that the greatest gift I received as a child was not a bicycle or BB gun or football – it was the unconditional love I got from my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
I was fortunate to live a privileged childhood. My family was not wealthy in terms of money, but we were comfortable. We didn’t want for much. But we were rich beyond measure when it came to loving each other, without condition. And that was a gift the children got every day of the year and not just on Christmas.
Kindness and caring wasn’t limited to just our family, however.
My grandfather, Pappa Joe, would lend a hand to everybody. People would come in to his grocery store and ask, “Hey, Pop, can I borrow a five?” And he’d say, “No problem, honey, here’s a broom and a shovel. Go clean that parking lot.” When they’d head out to the parking lot, he’d say, “Don’t worry, only about 50 percent take me up on that.”
The people who did take him up on the offer ended up getting whatever they wanted.
There were other times we delivered groceries to people and Pappa Joe never asked for a thing because he knew they couldn’t pay. He took care of them because they either lost their husband in a mining accident or something of that sort, and they’re just really on hard times.
And my grandmother, Mama Kay, opened her house, her kitchen and most importantly her heart to everybody in need.
So I saw their compassion and learned how rewarding giving back can be.
The gift of unconditional love was just one of the ways their generation tried to prepare the next generation for life. They believed the old wisdom that there is an obligation for one generation to plant the tree so the next generation can enjoy the shade.
I have followed that same old wisdom my entire life, as a father, a grandfather and a public servant. It is a great thing to make your mark on the world. But it is a more important thing to make your mark on the next generation, to make it possible for it to go further and accomplish more.
As your Senator, I will continue to make the next generation my priority by standing up for West Virginia as a voice of common sense in our nation’s capital, especially in getting our fiscal house in order. There is nothing we can do that is more important for our country – and for our next generation – than getting out from under our crippling debt.
This Christmas, Gayle and I pray that each of you experiences the wonder of this most sacred of holidays.
May God bless us everyone. And may the hope and joy of the season fill the stockings and hearts of every West Virginian.