Let's leave something good in Afghanistan
Published 4:56 am Wednesday, December 26, 2001
A Pair of Christmas Shoes
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy said there's not much time
You see, mom's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if mama meets Jesus tonight"
Around the world, people from all walks of life are celebrating the holy season of their respective faiths.
Here in America, the two most prominent celebrations this time of year are the observance of Hanukkah for Jews and the celebration of Christmas for Christians.
One thing, among many, that our recent war on terrorism and involvement in Afghanistan has taught us is that, as Americans, we often take much for granted.
For instance, we have learned just during the past 90 days the all-too-unpleasant news that under Taliban rule, the religious monuments of faiths other than Islam were destroyed throughout Afghanistan.
Moreover, Afghan children were forbidden to fly kites, sing songs or build snowmen.
Sadly, the oppression didn't end with the snowmen. Women were imprisoned in their own homes and denied access to basic health care and education. Unbelievably, a seven-year-old little girl was beaten for wearing white shoes.
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically, then he turned and he looked at me
He said, Mama always made Christmas good at our house,
Through most years she did without
Tell me, sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow, I've got to buy these Christmas shoes.'"
Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, Americans have been parceling their time and emotions in a number of different ways.
Initially, we were all in shock that the horrid sights we were watching over and over again on television were not an image conjured up by some dark Hollywood writer, but instead was the real-life work of an evil man and his band of terrorists around the world.
Their hatred for America and Americans and their total lack of respect for the concept of human life was so foreign to most of us that we sat numb as a nation, in shock over what was happening to our very way of life.
Then, as is often the case in death and sorrow, our pain turned to anger and our anger turned into a steely resolve. As President Bush said to a joint session of Congress and an anxious nation, "we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."
Since the first commitment of U.S. forces and the almost-universal condemnation from others in the world community, our war on terrorism has gone better than anyone could have hoped.
Even so, the casualty list has already been unfurled and sadly more names will likely be added before the mission is complete.
And yet, aside from the obvious reasons for our actions, there is something poignant about one of the fringe benefits of doing what we are doing.
And as I laid the money down
I'll never forget the look on his face
When he said, Mama's gonna look so great.'
I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love as he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy my way
To remind me just what Christmas is all about."
One of the more touching stories of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule was the story of the seven-year-old little girl who was beaten for wearing her white shoes.
You see, as a grandfather who has a beautiful little granddaughter close to the same age, that seems so foreign to me.
Yet, thanks to the brave actions of our men and women in uniform, and thanks, too, to the solidarity of the American people who are backing our commander-in-chief, we are going to win this war on terrorism. In fact, we already are.
In so doing, we will deliver an incidental present to the millions of children who live in a country most of us will never visit children who likely will never even know the true meaning of the holidays.
For when this war is over, we're going to leave behind some "Christmas shoes" so that one day in the very near future, a little girl in Afghanistan can wear her white shoes again if she wants.
May the spirit of the season fill your hearts and homes this holiday; may we never forget those whose seats around the dining room table will sit empty this year, and may God Bless America and all who are fighting for what she is.