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Leave it better than you found it AND find it better than you left

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Donnette Boyd
  • 451st AEW Chaplain
Many of us have heard the cliché, "leave it better than you found it," in regard to our jobs.

Everything from our work area, living environment and the logistical challenges we encountered when we arrived are being constantly improved as a result of our effort to give our replacement a better situation than one we encountered when we arrived. Leaving it better is not only a cliché, but it is vital to our sense of accomplishment about our mission at Kandahar. We did not separate from our families and travel thousands of miles just to be a place holder. We were brought here to make it better for those around us and ultimately for those who follow us. Our job is what most of us are best at and we are always improving the way we do business.

I challenge you to try to go one step further and "find it better than you left it."

As a result of you traveling thousands of miles away from your family, some of you will try to maintain the good relationships you had before you left. Others are hoping to improve a challenging relationship during this time apart. Regardless of which side you fall on (perhaps even a little of both) here are a few tips that can help you maintain or improve your relationship with your significant other while you are deployed:

1. Communicate often - physical distance can lead to emotional distance in the absence of communication. With the use of Skype ®, Facebook ® and free phone cards from the Chapel office, you don't have many reasons for not staying in touch, except maybe a challenging work schedule.

2. Call just because - you don't need a specific agenda, question or task to convey. It's okay to call just to say hello.

3. Avoid arguments - if you see yourself following the old familiar path that leads to an argument, take a detour. Subtly change the subject by inserting a compliment or ask about how others are doing. It is difficult to make up after an argument from 7,000 miles away.

4. Try not to be controlling or critical - when they tell you something they've done that you might have done differently, keep your critique to yourself. You might pleasantly surprise them with your absence of negative input.

5. Listen -monitor what percentage of the conversation is occupied with you talking. A good conversation has as close to a 50/50 balance as possible. Ask open-ended questions and wait for a completed response. (This is a good tip for conversations in general).

6. Give positive affirmation - when your loved one tells you how challenging their day was, complement them on the way they are taking care of things. Compliment your children for trying so hard at school.

7. Tell them you love them - don't assume they know because of what you do. Tell them how you feel about them as often as possible. Sometimes negative feelings are expressed to loved ones more often than the positive feelings.

Proverbs 16:24 says, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Gracious words are also health to a relationship. Absence CAN make a heart grow fonder, especially if communication during the absence brings closeness rather than enhancing the distance.

Leave your job better than you found it. Also strive to return to your family with your relationship as good, if not better, than when you left. If not, there are always chaplains ready and able to provide relationship counseling for you and your loved one when you return home.