Does My Life Show My Values?

Today I added a funeral to my full calendar—the funeral of someone I never met. But he was my friend Dee’s father, and I wanted to see her and to pay my respects.

Bill Saelinger, age 90, had ten children who surrounded his casket at the beginning of the mass. His wife of 65 years was there, with 30 grandchildren and 20 greats. The tributes given to him were impressive. Because he had to leave school after only eight years in order to work on the family farm, he stressed to his children the value of education and thus fathered a doctor, a lawyer, a pharmacist, a physical therapist, and several registered nurses.

This is impressive to me because I’ve always taken education for granted. My father and his siblings and five of my mother’s siblings had college degrees, some advanced. We were a family of teachers, not from pressure but by choice.

My mother taught grade school with only a high school diploma. It was not the traditional “one-room schoolhouse,” but instead was a more “modern” version, having three classrooms plus a lunchroom. Of course the lunchroom was merely a room with tables where students could go to eat the lunches they’d brought from home. This was in the 1940s, and the superintendent felt she knew enough to teach the children math and how to read and write.

In 1984, my father’s Tuesday funeral was attended by high school students who had been in his biology and chemistry classes the previous Friday. Last year, my daughter taught her ESL high school classes on Tuesday and had a baby Wednesday morning. I taught elementary school 34 years; my husband is retiring after 42 years of college teaching. Our son is a college professor; his wife teaches elementary school. We don’t talk about how we value education; it’s just the way we live.

A generation that didn’t have an education values it and passes that value on to their children. The dedication to education may lessen through the years as each generation gets accustomed to the privileges of education. They are still educated, but they don’t talk about it. And we can look around at later generations who decry the need for a college degree.

I see the same effect with Christian families. When people who were not reared with Christ as the center of the home find Jesus, they are on fire for the Lord and work diligently to keep their children strong and faithful. But through the generations, some of that energy and enthusiasm wanes as the Christian life may appear to be simply a routine to go through. Children don’t always have the commitment to Christ and the Bible that their parents or grandparents had. Perhaps the older generation doesn’t talk about it enough; we just live it and hope the younger generation catches on.

Just as Bill Saelinger talked about the importance of an education, we need to talk to our children, both young and adult, about our commitment and why Jesus is important to us. Perhaps our parental theme verses should be Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

From personal experience I’d add, “And as you ride in the car,” for those are times when parents and children often have the most significant conversations.

What do we talk about to our children? If your child or grandchild were asked what is most important in life to you, what would the answer be?

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One Comment

  1. supermomdoesn'texist

    What a great reminder–sometimes I find myself struggling to figure out how to "introduce" Jesus to Angelica. You've reminded me that it just needs to be a natural piece of conversation, just as much as anything else would be: a prayer before bed, a word of thanksgiving, or a sweet children's song (she has been singing "bible" songs from a book her uncle bought her). Make it normal, and natural…
    On a side note, Rufino's mom never went to school, and his dad only completed 4th grade. 4 out of the 5 siblings have earned college degrees–not an ordinary accomplishment for a family of humble means from a rural area of Mexico.

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