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Commentary - Little people like you make Christmas better

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jason Smith
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
"It's little people that make the difference. Little people like you."

The fictional character Frank Shirley pitched his "little people" Christmas message to Clark Griswold in the 1989 movie "Christmas Vacation."

Although demeaning in a comical way, the little people reference is seen over and over in classic Christmas stories. Little people like me and you can become larger-than-life Wingmen - especially during the holidays.

I want to share three stories about people whose lives I personally made exceptionally better over the holiday season. Unfortunately I don't have such stories. But I do like to watch Christmas shows, so I can talk about three fictional little characters making their Wingmen the priority for Christmas.

The integrity of Linus van Pelt from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" can't be questioned. He is the ultimate Wingman. This young man carried around a baby blanket and believed in the Great Pumpkin. His best friend, Charlie Brown, was subject to unrelenting ridicule and bullying. Linus' sister Lucy regularly threatened him and was a very materialistic, selfish woman. Through all of these challenges, people respected van Pelt because of his integrity.

On one particular Christmas, Brown was having a rough time. Instead of abandoning his friend, van Pelt stood by his side. Brown went as far as to buy a half-dead Christmas tree as a decoration for a major stage production. When everything went terribly wrong, it would've been easy for van Pelt to stand back and laugh at Brown like all of the other folks. But van Pelt stepped up instead.

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about," shouted Brown! "Sure, Charlie Brown," said van Pelt, as he took the stage in front of all those who ridiculed Brown. "I can tell you what Christmas is all about."

Van Pelt gave a speech to the would-be lynch mob and saved Christmas for Brown. He also gave up his beloved blanket to save the poorly-selected tree. Van Pelt is the Wingman I would want by my side if times got tough.

The classic Dr. Seuss Grinch has a lot of things going against him. We know his "heart was two sizes too small." You can look at his waistline and lack of leg muscle definition and realize there is no way the dude could pass an Air Force PT test. Since he wore all green anyway, I'll assume he wasn't in the Air Force, but rather a sister service branch.

The Grinch hated everyone and wished bad things upon them. Maybe there is a Grinch in your place of work right now. That doesn't mean you have to let the Grinch drag down the whole shop or office. Quite to the contrary, the Whos in Whoville kept the standard high. The Grinch stole everything and tried to sabotage Whoville. Much to his chagrin, the Whos pressed on by displaying service before self.

Totally unfettered by the lack of selfish gains, the Whos just kept the mission going in a positive direction. The Grinch actually "puzzled three hours, 'till his puzzler was sore." When the Grinch realized he couldn't drag the team down to his level, he stepped up his game to their level. He wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. His heart grew three sizes, and he lifted a gigantic sleigh full of toys over his head with one hand. I'm certain the new and improved Grinch made PT and teamwork a priority.

Let's not forget the littlest of my three inspirational Christmas characters. His name says it all - Little Drummer Boy.

The "Little Drummer Boy" first aired in 1968. I'm sure many Airmen won't remember the original TV version of the "Little Drummer Boy." It's old, it's not in high definition and there is a Christian message that doesn't fit the retail version of Christmas. However, if anyone is guilty of excellence, it would be the Little Drummer Boy.

Aaron, Little Drummer Boy, lived a happy life with his parents in the Middle East. In a failed burglary, his parents are killed and his house is burned to the ground. All Aaron has is a drum and some animals. Although he isn't the best in social settings, Aaron gets good; I'd say excellent; on the drum. I'm talking Neil Peart or Tommy Lee good.

After being sold off to a circus and a variety of other adventures and hijinks, Aaron finds himself asking three wise men to heal his injured sheep. The wise men can't help, but they tell Aaron there is a baby who might be able to hook him up. Aaron knows he doesn't have anything to offer, but he finds a way to get the mission done.

As the song by the same name as the TV show goes, "I have no gift to bring...Shall I play for you...I played my drum for Him...I played my best for Him...Then He smiled at me."

When all hope was lost, Aaron did his job, and he did it with excellence. He was rewarded when the baby healed his injured sheep.

I don't have time to touch upon the values of characters like Rudolph, Gizmo from "Gremlins," or Kevin McCallister from "Home Alone," but I think I've made my point.

We can't all be the Grinch, Linus or Aaron, but we can all raise our levels of Wingmanship during the Christmas season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Air Force.