A Holiday Message to the Team

Message From The Director

To My Family,

The holidays are here.  No matter how, or if, you celebrate, this year is coming to a close.  And for most of us, it cannot get here soon enough.  This year has been full of the types of major events that normally affect us the most in a given year – job losses, the birth of children and the death of loved ones.  Unfortunately, over the past 10 months we have not had the benefit of the everyday things that help to balance and normalize our life experiences.  We have missed nights out with friends and family, trips to the mall and movie theater, vacations, sporting events, work get-togethers, occasional parties and more.  For me, the stress of this year has made many experiences more raw, more real and, in many cases, more painful.

Our Park Service family, like each of our own families, has had its ups and downs.  The stresses of closing parks and laying off team members and then opening up to unprecedented crowds has challenged us in ways never before experienced.  For each of us, the challenges of managing our professional and personal lives and making the best decisions we can to stay safe has been an ongoing struggle.  No decisions felt easy or inconsequential this year. Yet, through it all, we have also celebrated the birth of children and, unfortunately, grieved the loss of loved ones.  When news of these events reached me this year, I often struggled to know how to offer any support.  Many of our responses to these events have been different because they had to be, but the gravity and impact of these events have been no less keenly felt.  Instead, this year it seems I have felt the loss and the joy more acutely than before.  When news of a birth comes across my desk, my heart is a little more full than normal, and I believe our sense of shared joy more realized.  Equally, the news of a death hurts us all a little more, and combined with the sense of helplessness to offer support, it seems even more overwhelming. This month has highlighted the struggle we have faced all year.  Our family lost a member, David “Brick” Hyduke, unexpectedly.  Brick had been with us for 20 years at Cheraw State Park and had become a fixture there.  He modeled customer service naturally, and built relationships with visitors from around the country and beyond.  You couldn’t walk into the pro shop if he was there without a gregarious greeting and a genuine check-in on how you and your family were.  For those who knew him and worked with him daily, the loss has been even harder.  Our Park Service family is hurting in so many places, and my holiday wish is that they find the support they need and know that we are all thinking of them.

We were also reminded this month of how exciting new life can be.  Over the past month several of our employees have added to their families and it has been thrilling to join in their celebrations.  The promise of hope and possibility springs forth in an unprecedented time.  While we cannot celebrate with baby showers and visits, I hope you know that we are just as excited as you to welcome the new additions.

So to my Park Service family, as we spend time with our families this year, my hope is that your joy is more sweet than normal and you can appreciate each other a little more.  This year has shown us how quickly circumstances can change and how things we never anticipated can separate us.  I will never again take for granted the ability to hug someone, to shake hands, to sit across the table from them and see them smile or make mundane plans to get together. 

Finally, to my family…to my wife Shannon who has been working from home for 10 months while working on her master’s degree – I couldn’t have made it through this year without you. You inspire me to be better at whatever I do.  To my son, Connor, in Maui – we miss you and love you and we look forward to seeing you in March.  To my son, Jordan, and his significant other Joe – we are so happy we have been able to spend some socially distanced time with you through all of this. You have brightened our year by being in it. Finally, to my son, Tyler – watching you navigate through college during this, staying engaged yet responsible with your health and concerned for others, has been impressive. You have made us so proud.  I love each of you and thank you for supporting me in my work and life.

Happy Holidays to all. I look forward to seeing you in a park in the New Year!