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televisionValue Family

Family. I grew up watching shows like “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet” and “The Donna Reed Show.” The television families portrayed regularly had a couple of mischievous yet happy kids, two loving parents who always had the right answers, and situations that were as simple as they were comical and sweet. It was a great image of American family life in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Although my family did not look anything like these television families, we continued to tune in week after week to follow their adventures. Looking back, I think we subconsciously related to the ideals of happiness, stability, love and support that these shows tried to present — qualities that were very present in my own family’s adventures despite the differences in appearance. I mean, my mother never cleaned our house or cooked our meals in a dress; my father never came to the table in a long-sleeve white shirt and tie; my brothers and I never had cookies and milk after roughhousing with the neighborhood kids.

When I occasionally watch these shows in syndication today, 40 or 50 years later, they seem unreal and hokey. I ask myself, “Was family life ever really like that? Do we have anything in our contemporary society to connect us with the portrayal of family life from two generations ago?”

Long before the politically charged expression “family values” was invented, families lived those values. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers — even extended-family members — placed value on being together, loving one another, passing on traditions and
helping one another succeed in life. Although the way families look today might not match the appearances of two generations ago, family is still valued as the cornerstone of our American society and our Church.

That is never clearer to me than at graduation time. The pride and joy that families feel about their graduating senior or graduate student is contagious! So much sacrifice and love has gone into making this event possible in their lives. One cannot help but feel a thrill watching the graduates march across campus to the majestic strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” The importance of family is so real and so evident.

Writing to the Corinthians about virtues and values, St. Paul declared that “the greatest of these is love.” It is so sad to witness families in which the absence of love was or is felt, for whatever reason. Past hurts, harsh words, carelessness, jealousy, selfishness or greed — family members hold on to these things, at times, as though they were treasures of gold. But they are not. They destroy family life and family love. They are the opposite of anything of worth or value. Sometimes, we just have to swallow hard and let go. Forgive no matter what the offense or deficiency. Begin a new chapter before it is too late, before the book closes altogether.

You only get one family and you do not get a choice as to who its members are. Life is far too short to let old family wounds fester even one more day. You do not have to be Ozzie or Harriet or “the Beaver” to recognize and realize that your happiness in life depends upon you. Your family may not be “television perfect” but it is your family, God’s first gift to you. Love them as much as you can!

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Revised: July 2007

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