Atmosphere Eight: Grace

Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. -- The Command Chief's 12 Atmospheres are designed to invoke a monthly focus on simple everyday concepts that sometimes get lost in light of increased ops-tempo and proliferation of typical Air Force jargon. Leaders at every level are encouraged to incorporate the monthly focus in their area of responsibility by whatever means they deem fit, but keeping with a very casual, if not fun inception. Each month a corresponding short video will air on the Commander's channel, Chiefs Corner website and Commander's calls as requested. 

"Grace--what a beautiful word. Grace is 'the disposition to, or an instance of kindness, courtesy and clemency.' The theological definition of grace is 'an unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration of sanctification.' That's grace, and that's what we are getting blessed with this week in America. Grace peeked her head out, and we said 'come on in!' She's gotta stay with us now. We have to remember this--we cannot go back to normal. We can't! We must never go back to normal." ...These words are the words penned by an unnamed Priest in a homily the week following September 11, 2001. It seems an appropriate time (7 years later) to look back and check his assertion. Does grace still abound? 

A couple months ago, I saw a CNN report about a young woman playing softball in a college league. As the story went, she had never hit a homerun in her life but in this moment, did exactly that! As she rounded the bases, in her moment of glory she fell and broke her leg. The ensuing moments were quite possibly the most amazing display of humanity I have seen in years. The opposing players picked her up off the ground and literally carried her the rest of the way around the diamond, completing the homerun for her! 

Last week I encountered an acquaintance and his wheel-chair bound associate shopping together in the commissary. Assuming he was shopping with his father, I introduced myself only to find that they too had just met! Another compassionate Airman, helping his fellow man who in this case was a disabled veteran. I am further awed at the spirit of our young people. The Nellis Airman's Council and the 5/6 Association are combining this month in a joint initiative benefiting Habitat for Humanity ... this on the heels of an initiative whereby they refurbished housing for the Southern Nevada Veterans council, serving four thousand homeless vets. These are not examples of people getting involved in the community because it's expected or they need a bullet, rather because it is right! 

Every day I see examples of "paying it forward" or as Oprah would say, "Random acts of kindness". So to the question, "Does grace still abound?" I say absolutely! I would also suggest that our culture has evolved in some ways that present grace has not compensated for. Our world has changed significantly since 2001 and few are more affected than our Airmen. Our heroes return from war much changed from the way they left. Our economics have changed to the extent that gas prices and a stressed housing market have altered lives. Families are stressed to their breaking point, from which some cannot recover. Personnel cutbacks have ensured only the most superior remain in our corps, which increases the impact of any departure from positive behavior. We're not a "one mistake Air Force," but we are a "one crime Air Force." 

Team Nellis has experienced much loss in the past couple months. We've endured the passing of Active Duty Airmen, civilian partners and family members. The Nellis community has responded with compassion without exception making me proud to be a part of this team. Yet I wonder, is there more we could have done? ... both for those who passed and for those who remain? 

As we look to lessons since September 11, 2001, we can be encouraged that grace is not lost, but as we look forward, let grace be our challenge. Let us keep not only that which the Padre asserted, but evolve in a grace that sustains the challenge of today. Let me encourage you to "pay it forward" or to do that "Random act of kindness," there are many who need you.