When I was asked to write the Story of My Family at a retreat, there were many ways to approach it. For whatever reason on that day, I didn’t think of my country or ethnicity or the many anecdotes that now have become family legend.
The two words that popped into my head were Honor and Service. I could likely write a book on each, and I’m sure others have. For me, in that moment, they were the words that immediately made me think of my parents. And when I think heritage, I think of those things that I want to pass on to my children, nieces, nephews, etc.
I suspect Honor and Service is the heritage of many families around the world, albeit with their own unique experience. For me, honor and service was all about having a foundation of Faith and Knowledge. That foundation came to us by developing our character and by getting a good education. To keep your character in tact, I learned early on, was an every day decision. To stay smart and knowledgeable was a life long journey. One thing my parents made very clear was that knowledge was not necessarily truth. Truth was in a category of its own, and only truly accessible to those most pure of heart who had a discerning mind and spirit, and who actively chose to seek truth. Many want knowledge, my dad would say, but not many really want the truth. It’s often uncomfortable and it can require you to change your behavior and beliefs about yourself, and even about your world. It’s often easier to ignore it or to go along with others. If you speak truth, you will not necessarily be anyone’s friend. But regardless, you still have to live it—if you want to be fully happy and content.
This and so much more contributed to our heritage of honor, and understanding the importance of personal honor for us and in others. It would also speak to how we honored others through our service to them, whether it was the poorest of patients my dad might be treating or a person living alone to whom my mom would bring home-cooked lasagna. As an adult, only now do I see and understand the challenges so many have in life and why these small acts were and are so important. I understand now the importance of community and the human connection that my parents would make in reaching out to people who were sick, lived alone, were separated from family, or had lost their family. As technologically connected our world is today, I often hear, in both young and old, this feeling of deep loneliness. Sometimes, even their own family is too busy for them and the elderly especially, “don’t want to be a bother.” The good news is, that none of us need a degree in anything to help alleviate loneliness!
There’s neither capital nor clout in humble service to others, but it’s these moments that bring out our humanity. It’s in these small acts of service that we show our greatest honor.
In this month of thankfulness, I’m thankful to those who allow me to experience my own fumbling humanity, and I’m especially thankful to my parents for showing me what a heritage of honor and service looks like. I hope someday it’s a heritage that will be found in my own children. And it is my hope for all, that when you think about your own heritage, it’s not the failings of others you cling to, but the highest ideals that were wished upon you.
Until next time,