‘Tis the Season to Celebrate Skype

By Penny Starr | December 7, 2010 | 4:00am EST

Each year as Christmas approaches, I try to focus on the true meaning of the season and the gratitude I have for the blessings I enjoy every day of the year because Christ was born, lived, died and rose again. The savior was born on Christmas Day, died for all of mankind and lives forever in our hearts.

And the world rejoices each year with lights, feasts, gifts and heavenly music.

But as I count my blessings on this last month of the year, I find myself thankful also for something that is in sharp contrast to the earthly images of a hay-filled stable, a precious newborn baby and robed shepherds who followed a magical star to the Lord’s birthplace.

This year I am also thankful for something that has literally made my life so much more joyful; that modern-day Internet phenomenon with the quirky name: Skype.

Founded in 2003 by a few genius entrepreneurs in Luxembourg, the idea was to connect people online via software that allows them to not only communicate by written messages online, but to chat via Web cam.

And, most amazingly, it’s free.

I spoke with a Skype official a few months ago who told me -- despite rumors to the contrary -- the company is committed to keeping its online chat free of charge. The venture makes lots of money with other mobile communications products.

I made a quick check and at noon on Dec. 4, 2010 – in real time – as I wrote this missive, there were 23 million users using Skype. So you can imagine how much money the company (which is now partly owned by E-Bay and other investors) could make even if only a nominal fee was charged. In the first half of 2010, users logged 88.4 billion minutes of Skype-to-Skype calls (my minutes included).

But back to the blessings …

They begin with my sons, now grown men and world adventurers inspired in part, I believe, by their mother’s wanderlust.

When my younger son was a junior in college and studied abroad in Chile for six months, I came to my first revelation about Skype and its profound impact on my life. If not for Skype, I could not have spoken with him as often as we liked or witness the strange beard he decided to grow while on his South American adventure. Not to mention the chance to meet a few of his new friends, including beautiful young Chilean women, who introduced themselves over Paul’s shoulder as we chatted online.

At that time, my older son lived in New York City, so Skype also helped us keep in touch, even if we visited in person much more often than is the case of late.

That’s because he married a lovely European woman, and they now live abroad. It was cool enough to visit with him on Skype as if thousands of miles and a mighty ocean did not stand between us.

But when my first grandchild was born last summer, the gift of Skype took on new meaning.

Even before I met my granddaughter in person, I was able to see her in her mother and father’s arms soon after she was born, and on another Skype visit I saw her wrapped in a blanket that had once kept her dad snug and warm when he was just a babe.

Skype, of course, is not the sole blessing in my life. I have an amazing job covering the nation’s capital and the people and events that shape this great country. I am healthy and praise the Lord each morning that I slip on my running shoes and (okay, I admit it) jog around my neighborhood.

I have good friends, an amazing family, and a loving church family that shares my passion for all of the most important things in life.

And, most of all, I’m so thankful for Jesus Christ, who gave his life for me. And as the mother of two sons, I can tell you that God’s sacrifice speaks of his profound and unparalleled love, a love almost unfathomable to this oh-so-mortal mom.

So here’s hoping the most wonderful time of the year brings blessings to you and your loved ones. And if you haven’t Skyped yet, you should put it at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions.

Merry Christmas.

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