It might be trite – annoying -unwanted, but Christmas is as good a day as any other to review our place in the world as Americans. Mostly, how lucky we are – there are profound civil wars underway in Syria and Ukraine. Venezuela is destabilizing at a meteoric rate. Jordan has been overwhelmed and under siege by refugees because of hardships of the Middle East for years with no end in sight. Turkey is increasingly becoming a hollow ally seeking regional hegemony putting the UN, as a whole, at risk. Afghanistan, our longest running war remains – and receives the least coverage and concern. Iraq, where many gave their lives and worked tirelessly to improve – looks to return to its chaotic and sectarian state once the threat of ISIL is removed. In all, we must have done something right to be able to sit around a tree and hand one another presents designed to bring joy into lives of those who receive them.

But, more that any of that – our service members are abroad for this holiday. Personally, one of my favorite holidays was in the Christmas wonderland of Jordan.

Image courtesy of Desert Safari Abu Dabi

That year in particular – knowing a severe snowstorm was headed into the Middle East, Jordan was advertising itself as exactly that, a Christmas wonderland. I’m not kidding – there was Christmas stuff everywhere in Amman. It was both sad in the drab look of Christmas there and charming. That was fun to ‘celebrate’ Christmas in that environment, but – it’s no substitute for being with your family. It’s probably one of the only holidays I feel compelled to ensure I’m with my family.

There’s no other nation that has as many expatriates and those serving abroad working with foreign countries, today, or any other day. That Christmas in the winter wonderland of Jordan, we had work to do, and we did it. I heard about the presents and gifts the next day. There’s no holiday or day more important than the work being done on a daily basis abroad on behalf of the U.S. government and our partners. We put out a lot of positive energy and did a real job toward improving the conditions of others. Maybe those efforts have something to do with how comfortable so many of us are on this day celebrating Christmas.