Someone sent me a prayer for Thanksgiving that expressed the most important things in life — more important than a promotion or a surprise bonus, more important than a new Tesla or a used Tesla, more important than fame and popularity, and even more important than having the body of a Victoria’s Secret model.
This prayer expressed what should truly matter to us and not the things that pass away once we’re dead and gone.
It was titled “Family Prayer,” and here it is:
God made us a family
We need one another
We love one another
We forgive one another
We work together
We play together
We worship together
Together we love all people
Together we serve God
Together we hope for Heaven.
These are our hopes and ideals.
Help us obtain them.
“God made us a family,” the prayer says, although I sometimes wonder whether God made a mistake because we want our families to be perfect, and they’re usually not. When families gather at this time of year, old resentments and rivalries can resurface over what someone said or did back in 1983. Sound familiar?
The line “We forgive one another” is challenging. In any family, there’s always a need for forgiveness, although many times we refuse to forgive because it’s easier to cling to our anger.
Needing one another
Very often, we overlook the importance of our families. Vincent Manago, who grew up in Brooklyn during the 1950s and ’60s in an Italian-American family, wrote a memoir titled, “The Third Attic and Other Brooklyn Stories,” in which he recounts the hardships that his grandparents endured to make a better life for their children.
After Vincent’s grandmother died at 33, his grandfather was alone in a strange country and had to raise five kids. The story reminded me of my grandmother, whose husband died at 40 after they came to America. She was forced to raise nine children singlehandedly in a flat on the East Side of Bridgeport with no social welfare or public assistance — only family.
As the prayer says, “God made us a family — we need one another.”
In situations like that, you realize how much you actually do need one another, and from that need comes love — a sustaining love that should transcend petty disagreements.
“It’s all about family,” Manago said. “Family was and is one of the most important aspects of our lives. It is from your family that you learn the values of your life. Among other qualities, your family teaches you integrity, courage and perseverance.
“Your family provides your spiritual foundation,” Manago continued. “It is from your family that you learn about God and experience love, caring and sharing.”
‘At war with families’
How has so much changed in America in one generation? The family role models that the media promote aren’t noble immigrants who sacrificed. Instead, they are the Kardashians. How tragic is that?
“Our culture is at war with families,” says psychologist Mary Pipher in her book “The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families.”
“But families are also our shelter from the storm, our oldest and most precious institutions and our last great hope,” Pipher writes. “Families were once powerful institutions, strong enough to withstand assaults. But now almost every force in our culture works against families.
“Parents do not know how to protect their children from crime, media, poverty, alcohol, and bad company,” she continues. “They can no longer give their children childhoods. It’s a terrible time to undercut families.”
Culture and families
Pipher examined society’s corrosive influence and reached an unsettling conclusion: Contemporary American culture is destroying families.
What many of us fail to realize is that our families are the most important lifeline we have in a hostile society, the greatest source of intimacy and acceptance and trust — despite their deficiencies.
In our family relationships, Manago said, we learn love and forgiveness. Remember that simple truth when you gather around the table for turkey dinner, and please say a prayer of thanksgiving for what you’ve been given.
Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.