I often tell my staff that health and family first. As I examine how my life is structured I find that I am not following my own advice. As it turns out, I am not as available to family and loved ones as I would like to be. So, I’m asking whether it has to be this way? Has anyone else figured out how to balance demands so that the home front doesn’t have to take a back seat?
It came to a head a few days ago when I attempted to schedule a visit to my mom and stepdad who live about a six hour drive from here. I’m now on my third or fourth attempt to get dates pulled together, arrange for coverage, and do the planning ahead that the simple act of getting out of town will require.
What matters most? My school expects sacrifice. The families and children I serve deserve the best. That’s not the question. I am, however, looking at my set up and asking some pragmatic questions about that structure. Why do my family members live so far from one another? If we were closer, could I do a better job at being a father, uncle, and son? My current arrangement contributes to a poverty of time and erodes core relationships. That’s not good for others and not good for me.
I am going to jump way out front here and say that we have a collective responsibility for our health and well-being. This collective responsibility exists whether we acknowledge it or not. Could more mindful arrangements position us to take better care of ourselves and one another? Some of us will thrive in this world and others among us may stumble – and even those who do well at one point could hit a rough patch later. All of us get old. Isolation is a health hazard on many levels. How can it be helpful to ignore circumstances that are sometimes a matter of yards from our front doors because they are someone else’s business?
These same reflections came to me through a different door when I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. I went up into a six story building in the Queen Anne section. From where I stood, I could see block upon block of stick frame houses and back yards divided by fences. So city blocks were again sub-divided into fenced yards. What would happen if the fences came down? One big yard? I know I was dreaming!
Children are expected to leave home at 18 and make their own way. By virtue of this model, I do not live near many of the people I care about. My mother is in her 80’s and stepdad is 87. They must fend for themselves or hope for one of us to fly down for a visit. What if we were neighbors? Why can’t families, however they are constructed, assemble themselves, remove the fences (real or figurative) from amongst one another, and celebrate life’s changes together?
I wish for humane answers to how we can take better care of one another. A gentler way forward depends on these answers.