The Words of the Swarts Family
The Role of Parents in Todayís Society
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, enacted without dissent by the United Nations in 1948 after years of careful consideration, has this to say about the family: "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."
It is the family -- not the individual, not the state, not the church, not the political or economic bodies -- that stands as the natural and fundamental group unit of society. It is in the family where we learn to care for others beyond ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves for others, to love others.
Today, the word "love" means many things to many people. You canít be a selfish person living in a selfish world and hope to have the slightest understanding of heavenís concept of love. There is just no way.
In a book by Stephen Covey, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families," he relates an encounter he had with a frustrated husband at one of his seminars -- "Love is a Verb," is the section title -- and he writes:
"I was speaking on the concept of proactivity and a man came up and said, ĎStephen, I like what youíre saying, but my wife and I just donít have the same feelings for each other that we used to have. I guess I just donít love her anymore, and she doesnít love me. We have three children weíre really concerned about. What do you suggest?í
"Love her," I replied. "I told you, the feeling just isnít there anymore. "Love her," I said again. "You donít understand. The feeling of love just isnít there!" "Then LOVE HER. If the feeling isnít there, thatís a good reason to love her."
"But how do you love when you donít love?" (I really like the answer he gives the husband) "My friend, love is a verb. Love -- the feeling -- is a fruit of love the verb. So love her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?"
"Hollywood has scripted us to believe that love is a feeling. Relationships are disposable. Marriage and family are matters of contract and convenience, rather than commitment and integrity. But these messages give a highly distorted picture of reality."
(He later quotes M. Scott Peck) "The desire to love is not itself love. Love is an act of will -- namely, an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love. If we are in fact not loving, it is because we have chosen not to love and therefore do not love despite our good intentions."
There you have it. Real love is not some selfish feeling. True love empowers you, enables you to transcend selfishness. True love flows into selfless action. It can be something as small as being in a hurry in rush hour traffic, but still allowing that pushy person get in front of you, or, it can be something as big as getting on an operating table so they can cut out one of your kidneys to give to a perfect stranger, so that person might have a longer and more normal life. True love is many things, but is always of the same essence.
Where do we learn this type of behavior? What school teaches lessons like this? That kind of school is known as the family. It was designed by God as the first institution -- the school of love.
Our parents are meant to be our first teachers. * We learn to love by being loved. * We learn to serve by being served. * We learn to forgive by being forgiven. * We learn to share by our parents sharing with us ą their love, their time, all that they cherish.
Yet, the fundamental value and role of parents often goes unrecognized and unappreciated. This is one of the reasons for the founding of Parents Day. Parents Day is actually Americaís newest national holiday. Although you cannot yet find a Hallmark Card on the holiday, nor a Peanuts or Rugrats TV special, in 1994 Congress enacted a law which declared the fourth Sunday of every July as Parentsí Day, a perennial day of commemoration. The resolution establishing Parentsí Day was unanimously passed by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate and was signed into law by President Clinton on October 14, 1994. This makes this Parentís Day, our nationís 7th Parents Day. In quiet ceremonies, elected officials and ordinary citizens will gather to pay honor to the institution that is the cornerstone of American life.
Some may ask why, when we already have Motherís Day and Fatherís Day do we need a Parentís Day? The answer is painfully obvious. In the 1990s, too many children send their Motherís Day and Fatherís Day cards to different addresses. Too many other children in America have never met their fathers. Parentsí Day is one initiative in the effort to reverse the long assault on the nuclear family and uplift this vital institution.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the family is entitled to protection by society and the State. Parentís Day stands as a cooperative effort between non-governmental organizations and the United States government in an effort to lift up parents and the family, and to serve as a building block toward reversing the current epidemic in America of youth-on-youth crime, drug abuse, suicide, death of civility, disregard for authority, and in general the growing trend of dysfunctional adolescents and young adults.
Actually, America leads the developed world in many regrettable firsts: first in teenage suicide, first in teenage pregnancies, first in age of earliest sexual experience, first in teenage gun violence, first in this, and first in that. Many of these youth problems correlate with the family situation, and in particular the absence of a stable two-parent family. Children lacking such a nuclear family are much more likely to experience behavioral and emotional difficulties and become entangled with the law. They are more likely to drop out of high school, become pregnant as teenagers, and abuse drugs. And the trend we are seeing is quite troubling. In 1960, the total number of children living in father-absent homes was less than 10 million. Today that number stands at nearly 24 million. That means that tonight, 4 out of very 10 children in America will go to bed without both parents in the home.
This is not in any way to take away from the heroic efforts of many single parents who are carrying on the load of trying to be both parents. They are often heroes, trapped by circumstances beyond their control, doing the almost impossible task of being both fathers and mothers. They are to be applauded and encouraged. And many of them would quickly assert that given a choice, they would welcome the opportunity to share the parenting role with another in a stable, loving marriage. If any criticism is to be lodged, it is of the absent fathers who have abandoned responsibility for the lives they helped to create.
It should be axiomatic that healthy, intact families are the best prescription for producing healthy children, and a stable culture. It is vitally important that we reaffirm the importance of the nuclear family, and that we make it clear that the nuclear family begins with parents. Although America has days to honor mothers and fathers individually, we need a holiday to honor the father and mother as a team. Our nationís parents are an enormous national resource to be appreciated and strengthened. The National Parents Day Council was created to uplift this central institution of parents, whose cornerstone is total, sacrificial love for the sake of children.
In Western thought, the individual is seen as the smallest unit of society, but did you know that in many places in the East, the family is considered to be societyís smallest unit? Something can be learned from this model. The most natural environment for a child to grow mentally and spiritually from a state of selfishness and selfish behavior to unselfishness is the family setting.
What crime committed against another did not grow from the root of selfishness? In every society, crime in the streets can be linked to problems in the home. True mothers and fathers arenít a luxury, theyíre a necessity!
We may aspire to become a president or a governor someday, but that title is fleeting. At the most, it will last only 8 years. Thatís why in the eyes of God, a president is nothing compared to the title, "PARENT." Parents are forever. Sometimes we may be undeserving of that crown, but itís always there.
Living up to Godís hope for us and our children is the challenge. May we all be victorious and hold dearly to the title "parent." Happy Parentsí Day, everyone!
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