When the holidays roll around, they often bring extra stress as we try to make everything conform to a panoramic picture of perfection in our minds.
A friend of mine, the wife of an Army retiree, taught me a lesson recently that especially hits home during the holiday season.
She was upset and under a tremendous amount of stress after doctors who were investigating her husband's pains found some suspicious growths.
She had expressed her worries to a group of friends during one of her weekly activities. The next week, she was deeply hurt when few people asked about him and the results of his tests.
Fortunately, it turned out her husband doesn't have cancer, as she feared.
But all she was looking for was some expression of concern from this group of loving, caring people. She spoke to them about her hurt feelings.
But how many people would do that? Not many, I think.
I've been the recipient of so many kind words and deeds over the years from my own family, my co-workers and my friends.
But how often in my sometimes hectic days have I misread a signal or forgotten to ask that simple question?
Not just, "How are you?" but "Has your mother recovered from her illness?" or "How is your son adjusting to his new school?"
And if I did ask such a question, did I really listen to the answer?
More importantly, if someone has specifically reached out to me for support, have I helped the person as much as I should or could have?
The military community is one that generally is very generous, supportive and tight-knit. But with the accumulated stresses of more than a decade of war and deployments, we should try to remain particularly aware of the needs of people around us.
I once commented to a colleague about the nice things she was always doing for people. She replied simply that her goal is to do something nice for at least one person every day.
It wasn't a costly endeavor — perhaps a card, or even just a compliment on someone's work.
Ironically, my friend the Army wife also tries to do things to brighten people's day. She notes that just a smile and a hello to a stranger at the commissary can have a positive impact.
Imagine what could happen if each of us did something nice for someone else each day. You may never know what it could mean to someone for you to take just a few minutes out of your day. But along the way, you'd surely make a difference in many lives.
firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.