Raise a glass to the peaceful warrior
For the past month or so I’ve been corresponding with Vail locals who are abroad this winter, working to make a better world through the Peace Corps.Even in a digital world, which comes replete with email, cell phones and satellites in orbit, these folks were surprisingly hard to get a hold of. Many of them must travel miles to reach phones and electricity. They are surrounded by millions of people who speak no English, who share very different customs, and who are usually submersed in poverty, or illness, or both.I have great respect for our American men and women who are overseas as military personnel but there is nothing more satisfying than remembering, as our soldiers fight wars in the Middle East, that we also have a different breed of soldier abroad: the soldier of Peace.It makes me proud of America.It also makes me proud of our valley. With four born-and-bred locals participating in Peace Corps, and another with close ties to the town, it’s clear we are producing people of compassion and courage in our community.The commitment to Peace Corps is a daunting one. Picture the past two years of your life, strip away everything you’ve experienced (every electric-lighted night, every trip in a car, every moment in a restaurant), and replace it with the Spartan life found in Zambia, or Guyana, or Senegal, or any other place where people live in conditions only our most distant ancestors experienced.During the holidays, life in the Peace Corps can be especially difficult. While their American families are gathered around a massive turkey, fresh cranberries, green vegetables, fine china, red wine and stacks of dessert, a Peace Corps volunteer is most likely huddled in a dark, grass-thatched hut, surrounded by dirt, snakes, weird spiders and people who have never heard of Christmas and couldn’t understand such a holiday if they tried.Perhaps, if a volunteer is lucky, she can raise a cup of palm wine to her distant American relatives.As for me, I’m able to raise a cup of wine with my relatives virtually any time I wish. The Boyd family hasn’t wandered far my brother, sister, and myself are all still here in the valley, where we see mom and dad on a regular basis.Here’s another fact that may shock you: I still live in the home where I grew up.Yep, that’s correct: I live with my mother.Well, technically that’s not true I live in the apartment downstairs, with my own door and everything (as if that makes a difference).It’s not exactly the kind of adventure I’d find if I joined the Peace Corps but it’s got its moments.I catch a lot of flack for living at home (and I’ll probably get more now that I’m writing it here in this column), but I say go ahead, laugh all you want. First of all, in a town like this, it isn’t easy to survive without finding a good deal on rent.But that’s not really why I’m there.The real reason is because I know a secret and so do the many other locals who have stayed around, stayed in contact with their families, and settled down to a life where grandma and grandpa are only a short trip away.The secret is this: Family rules.Especially now, during the holidays, I couldn’t be happier with the choices I’ve made. I’ve seen the world, traveled outside our borders many times, and will probably do so again. But in the meantime, here at Base Camp Vail, I’m able to spend time with my family, look out for my mom, go hunting with dad and my brother (though not as much as I’d like), and have a quick lunch with my sister on any given day.And I’ve got a niece and nephew, Rilee and Kienan, who I can’t help but put into my Christmas column every year (if you haven’t been sledding with a three-year-old lately, give it a shot: there’s really nothing better in the world than playing in the snow with the next generation of your family).All these family moments make me even more proud of our ambassadors overseas. They give up so much in order to do what they feel is right for the people of our planet. In the meantime, they gather important lessons from abroad, which, thankfully, they can share with us in turn.This year, when the Boyd family gets together, we’ll raise a glass to our valley’s warriors of peace, who do so much to make us proud. Take care of yourselves, and Merry Christmas. VTTom Boyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.