Remember that when young David went out to battle Goliath, he led with a Vision Statement: That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel…! (1 Samuel 17) A family that claims a principled vision for itself also says, “This is who we are and what we’re about. We live by values deeper than just being successful. We’re here to cultivate character in our members.” But families confront scores of terrible giants in the years they have together. What then?
I was sharing coffee in a parishioner’s den after a small group meeting. Our hostess told the story of her neighbor’s shock over giving birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome. The mother had said: “When we heard I was pregnant, it was like preparing for a wonderful trip. We were headed to Italy! It would be bright and sunny, with warm beaches and great pasta and wine. We even imagined our child’s Italian wedding!” Parenthood was going to be an enchanting trip.
But learning that her child had Down’s Syndrome was a powerful shock. “It was as if we got off the plane and our captain said, ‘Welcome to Sweden.’” “Sweden??” we thought. “We didn’t want to go to Sweden, we want Italy. Look at all the snow out there! Oh, no!”
She and her husband quickly had to adjust to a new vision of parenthood. They weren’t going to keep moping about Italy. They had to clarify a new vision for their life – one still built on their enduring principles. Those principles included patience, humility, love, courage, and compassion. They could ask for help; they could find blessing in every situation; they could welcome strangers into their lives; they had audacity! These values enabled them to begin revising their family vision, and still be the loving purposeful family they wanted to be.
By the time I heard the story, her neighbor’s family had lived “in Sweden” for 4 years. Their son and the Down’s Syndrome community had enriched their lives in unexpected ways. “Sweden is a beautiful country!” the mom said. “Its history, its people, its spirit have meant the world to us. We never would’ve planned to come here, and we would’ve been the poorer for it. Sure, Italy might’ve been great. But this is home now, and it’s a beautiful place to live!”
Maybe your family vision is changing – or collapsing. Children are born; troubles start; Covid 19 threatens; tragedy strikes. In the midst of all this, what are the persistent and enduring values that your family is about?
Take some time now to name 5 values that are most important to you. Just jot them on a slip of paper near you. Maybe other family members will do the same. Then share those values. If your family’s sense of direction and purpose is changing, you can begin to bring a new family vision into focus. This will ultimately point towards a Higher Power active in your life, just as it did for young David.