From the time I was quite young, I believed and felt deep down that the family was the most essential and fundamentally influential unit in life. I saw successful families in my community putting their best energies into their homes. When it came time to choose a major in college, nothing seemed to call me like the field of Marriage and Family Therapy. I had considered medicine, law, forestry, agriculture, politics, construction and even dance. I mentally envisioned myself in just about every field of study (except mathematics and art history) and each occupation had its own appeal. Some interested me because of the prestige or potential income; others just sounded fun, like being a National Geographic photographer. But when it came to the question of where I could have the most impact for good in the world, no occupation ranked higher, in my mind, than a field where I could work every day in strengthening families.
On New Year’s Eve, our next door neighbor Belinda passed away suddenly after a routine knee surgery. Three of her six children are still at home. To say our neighborhood was shocked is a gross understatement. Every time we look out our window expecting to see her feeding the dog, pulling up with groceries, or calling to her children, we are struck with sadness all over again. Eventually, we come around to remembering that for her family, there were no big regrets. She is an incredible example of one who consistently and through example taught her family who they were and what they stood for.
Walk into Belinda and Stan’s home and you will find beautiful family portraits everywhere. You will see quotes, scriptures, or positive sayings on plaques and in frames. Their long driveway is always full of cars for wedding receptions, extended family reunions, church functions, baby showers, or play dates. She would have her grown children and grandchildren over monthly for dinners or to plan service projects they wanted to participate in. She spent hours in community drama productions, performing alongside her children. As a couple, you could find them sneaking away at 9:00 at night to the hotel three miles away for a 12 hour getaway to plan out the new school year and make sure they were putting the most important things first. She and her family bring a targeted energy and purpose to everything they do.
Though the youngest child is only 7, there is no way he could miss what the culture of his family was set to be. The married children and father will continue to teach and carry out their family vision. Even their garage door code, WiFi password, and email addresses symbolize their closeness and purpose as family. This clear vision is compelling to them, to the extent that they lived it on a daily basis. Their priorities showed that their mission was their family. Family closeness, support, love, spirituality, fun, and service are their values.
My own family has taken the original two page mission statement we started with and condensed it down to a rousing cheer we do around the dinner table. Though it’s not done every night, we retell the story of where it came from and why it’s our cheer. It is based on a scripture that was given to us during our wedding ceremony, and is basically the only advice we remember from that day. It was that we build our marriage and home on the rock of our Redeemer. So as a family we shout “Thaynes…Built on a Rock!” Then making our hands into fists (rocks), I bump the fist of the person next to me, and they bump the one next to them until we go all the way around the circular table, then simultaneously throw our hands up in the air with a “Whew!” The goal is to see how fast we can do it. Of course, the kids want to try it over and over again to connect faster and better. It’s not necessarily sophisticated, but it is fun and weighty with meaning for us.
All-too-often in my work with highly motivated and successful people, there is a feeling of despair because there was no way to reclaim their families or turn back time. Even my constant optimism provides little consolation. They realize that all the success they had outside the home really didn’t matter, if their families had been pushed low on their priority list. This month’s Notes From Home is meant to inspire you to start the process of making your vision more formalized if it needs to be. We all want to go, like Belinda, with “no big regrets,” leaving a clear vision and legacy for our families to follow.
To Family Happiness!