First Things First

Finding the Best Gifts for Christmas

Anthony Wakim is an unassuming young man. He loves the outdoors and spends a lot of time hunting, fishing and camping with his dad. He plays handbells, knows how to skin a buck and holds a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. Since kindergarten he has not missed a single day of school. While a Cub Scout, he achieved the Arrow of Light, its highest rank.

While all of these are significant achievements, they are not his greatest achievement.

At the ripe old age of 13, Anthony became an Eagle Scout, an honor usually earned by young men nearing high school graduation. To achieve this rank, a Scout must master basic survival skills and earn 21 individual merit badges, 13 of which emphasize citizenship, family and preservation of our health and environment. Anthony has earned 32 merit badges.

Additionally, the Scout has to complete an Eagle project requiring leadership, planning and design development. Anthony planned and led a team of Scouts in the refurbishment of Andy Anderton Park on Signal Mountain. It required installing a drainage system, pressure washing, sanding, priming and painting playground equipment, removing overgrown vegetation, spreading gravel in the parking area and installing a new sign. Families now gather to play in what was once a rarely used park.

The night of Anthony’s National Eagle Scout Court of Honor, he heard his father share with the large crowd what his son means to him. His dad talked about Anthony’s accomplishments and shared funny stories. He spoke about the Scout Masters and other men who have mentored and encouraged his son.

He lauded Anthony’s character, zeal for life, work ethic and integrity, tenacious spirit and his exemplary mentorship of his younger brother. He thanked Anthony for their hours spent together hunting, fishing, camping and hiking, time when they have had ongoing discussions about life and honoring God in the way they live and serve others.

Anthony’s mom pinned the Eagle medal, badge and ribbon on his uniform, giving him a huge hug afterward.

He also received a charge from former Navy SEAL and Eagle Scout Sandy McMillian about the expectations of an Eagle Scout:

“Your first obligation as an Eagle Scout is to live with honor,” said McMillian. “As a leader, you will be a marked man; for good or ill, people will follow the example you set. Those who oppose you will seek ways to destroy your reputation. If you compromise your honor, you will only aid their efforts. You should sooner give up anything before your reputation and good name.”

But Christmas is coming. When Anthony’s family gathers around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning for presents, it is highly unlikely there will be a present to top the gift Anthony received the night he was given his Eagle Scout medal.

So often, though, we believe the gifts under the tree will bring happiness to people. Truthfully, it is the moment when a child hears his parent say, “I love you and I am so proud of you.” Or the letter of encouragement that says, “I believe in you, hang in there.” These are the greatest gifts we can give, etched in their brain forever.

Give the gifts, but don’t forget the most important gift: you. Don’t assume they know you love them. Tell them. Don’t assume they know you are proud. Tell them.

Merry Christmas!

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