A little boy in kindergarten seemed very worried. “What are you worried about?” his teacher asked. He replied, “My parents. Daddy works hard to earn money and buys whatever I want. And mummy spends all day cooking, cleaning, feeding and washing clothes.” The teacher asked: “Why, then, are you worried?” The child replied, “I’m afraid they might escape!” Thankfully, our parents haven’t escaped from shouldering familial responsibilities. But what about us?
Today, celebrating International Day of Families with the UN’s avowed aim of “celebrating the importance of families, people, societies and cultures around the world”, let’s set aside a little time to rejoice over each member of our nuclear family. Furthermore, we could also consider widening our “family circle”.
A child normally considers itself as the centre of the world. Rather than any thought about giving of itself to others, the child happily receives — toys, food, attention and total satisfaction of all its needs. Later, as one matures through to one’s teenage years, one begins to realise that there’s also immense joy in giving of oneself not only to one’s family members, but also to others and to nobler causes.
Family life fosters happiness and joy. There’s a difference between being happy and being joyful. Being happy is good. Being joyful is better. Happiness is “feeling good” — with one’s own success, achievements and being loved and accepted by others. Joy, by contrast, transcends the confines of the self, by thinking about others — delighting in others’ growth, success and achievements.
Rather than seek their own happiness, most parents sacrifice their utmost and experience joy when their children imbibe virtues and emerge victorious in life. They are joyful despite suffering deprivation and hardships. Their family’s well-being is cause enough for their rejoicing.
Beyond our nuclear families, the UN seeks to create a world family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — embracing not only all people but also mother earth. Christianity promotes the ideal of each and every person being a member of God’s family — uniquely loved by God, and equally entitled to enjoy the fruits of mother earth. Sadly, we seem far from this ideal since so many worldwide struggle for even the basic necessities of life. Jesus called these: “the least of my sisters and brothers.”
Charity begins at home. Today, let’s first be joyful and grateful about ordinary things — dad’s disciplining, mummy’s delicious dishes, grandma’s pampering, love shared, family outings, table-talk, the sibling’s successes, childhood adventures that backfired — for these have fostered family ties.
Secondly, transcending the “natural family” let’s reflect on our “family of nature” — mother earth and those “least” of our people. Lest they worry that we might escape being a father, mother, sister or brother to them, let’s serve them too. The Bible says: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”