As Dad and I walked in the park this morning, we took it slow as it had been quite awhile since we had walked regularly. The summer heat was too much for us, so we suspended the activity for the duration. Not only did we miss the exercise, but more importantly, we missed our philosophical talks and observances about the world and about each other. So, with our re-start of our walks, so to, did we re-start our discussions. We talked of the recession, the state of or government and some observations about relationships today. In the end, all of our endpoints fell to a collective decision of two choices: commitment vs convenience.
Convenient choices are short-term, often self-serving, border unethical or illegal on occasion, greedy on some level or another and easy. Divorce, affairs, schemes, fraud, waste, pollution, filibuster and the list goes on…are all some manifestation of convenience. On the other hand, commitment tends to be long-term, giving, responsible, serves collective good and mostly hard. Staying the course with a sense of purpose and service, thinking of the other person (people) in your life and those that you have never met, respecting each other and the environment and so many other selfless acts of kindness and generosity (monetary and emotional). Commitment takes a conscious effort, whereas convenience is more opportunistic. Maybe that is why convenience seems to be ahead of commitment in the human race today…
You may be wondering if this rant belongs in this particular blog page about Family Connections, or not. I believe that there is a connection because I have been fortunate to experience it first-hand, on many levels in my family. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are NOT saints by any means and convenience has shaped many a decision in our family-tree. What is true, though, is that the decisions and actions borne through commitment have really been the lasting glue of our family that has survived generations – and we are all better off for it. When we explore the threads in our family fabric, it becomes evident that the strength of the cloth lies in the inter-weaving of commitments that give us strength and longevity. Today’s families are really struggling and vulnerable to convenience over commitment and this is eroding our values and principles to the detriment of us all. I would like to share a few simple examples of how commitment has shaped my own family and helped us to remain connected.
Some of our family immigrated to America to seek a new life. They were not wealthy and this commitment was a hardship, not a pleasure cruise by any means. Times were hard when they arrived. A new language, new culture, obstacles and prejudices engulfed them. They reacted with ingenuity, hard work and an urgent sense of commitment to make their way in their new world. Their strength and fortitude brought them through it and allowed those that followed them to enjoy our freedoms and advantages.
Hard work and commitment to your job, profession or business is an ethic that has been passed down through our generations – pride in yourself and your ability to do the best job you can do. My grandparents were farmers, steel workers and truck/bus drivers – arduous hours invested in making a good living for their families. My parents were entrepreneurs who worked together to build a successful business. All of them set an expectation of success and excellence and pride that we try to pass on to our children, no matter what vocation they have chosen. Even in the midst of an unplanned failure or loss – we can all hold our heads high because we know that our commitment profiles our value and talents. Sometimes, we have had to re-invent ourselves into new roles, but stay committed to evolving in a positive direction – even when it might have been easier to just give up or choose a negative alternative.
We hold our traditions close to our hearts and make a concerted effort to bring the family together to celebrate holidays, special family occasions and accomplishments and rites of passage. It would be easier (i.e. more convenient) to let everybody just “do their own thing”, but it would also start to erode at the edges of our traditions until they became non-existent. The commitment to repeat the traditions is important to the legacy that the traditions represent. We resist the urge to take the easy route lest we should leave our fond memories on the side of the road.
When demons knock on our door, it takes commitment to overcome and control them by binding ever closer to those that we love. This is when family ties become very important. The concept of unconditional love and support is the pinnacle of commitment and is invaluable when hard times are at hand. It would be more convenient to ignore or ostracize; and certainly more convenient to abandon or avoid – but in our family, the commitment to support and help those in need has mostly overpowered the convenient cop-out. This has resulted, not only in a faster recovery and successful outcome for the unfortunate, but also in strong ties between us and the comforting assurance that we are not alone. When we need each other, there is a positive response and with that, the bonds that connect us grow stronger with trust and love.
I encourage you to reflect on the commitments within your own family trees which have strengthened and nurtured the love and trust that exists within. Learn from these sacrifices and assimilate them into your daily lives. Pass the ideals down to your children and grandchildren. Take the time to commit to each other in tangible and ethereal ways. Be less tempted by the easy and convenient road. Work on making your marriages work, invest time in nurturing your kids. Make the best of your job – even if it is tedious it is still the means of financial comfort and stability in today’s unstable world – do your best to appreciate and commit to doing the best you can do and have pride in your accomplishments. Invest more effort in positive thoughts and actions and avoid negativity as much as possible. Set the bar for commitment over convenience. Commit to invest in your family – the rewards are long-term and satisfying.