Seven Lessons From My Family

martinlanger11.jpgHere in the WYA blogspace, we write about a lot of different issues and we give our opinions and try to get discussions going on many fronts.  We represent lots of different cultural, political, socio-economic and religious backgrounds.  It is important for us to be open-minded and respectful as we explore the issues we deal with from all different angles.  One of the broader reasons behind our approach here is simply that we want to better understand who we are and what it means to be alive.

World Youth Alliance is currently drawing attention to the International Year of the Family, and for good reason.  WYA has always known that everything begins within the family.  For better or worse, it’s within the family that we begin to find out who were are, learn how we interact with others, and develop a sense of humor.  We don’t have the luxury of choosing the people who probably have the biggest impact on our lives.  Family life has the potential to be both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity.  The theme of the family is one that is fraught with tensions and nuances.  There are questions on how to define family, how to avoid defining family, how to ensure health and economic prosperity for families, how to educate families, and how the family contributes to sustainable development.  The list is infinite.  In the end, however, the experience of family life is often quite simple.  In honor of the International Year of the Family, I have veered away from an issue-related post and instead, I’ve drawn up a much-condensed list of life lessons garnered almost exclusively from my experiences growing up within my own family.
1.  Love the ones you’re with.
This was a monumental lesson that my family taught me.  We are a lot of different personalities when we’re all under the same roof, which can be quite chaotic and highly entertaining.  In the end, however, deciding to love each other rather than change each other gives us space to be ourselves and allows the best to be brought out in us. In this way, moments that try your patience can become enjoyable. After all, the relationships you’ll have with the people who will most likely be in your life the longest are the ones worth all the investment.
2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Siblings and parents have years of practice getting to know the real you, and are not easily fooled when you try to be someone else.  De facto, they can keep you grounded and help draw out the most authentic version of yourself.  You know, the person that likes to sing in the shower and has an inexplicable fascination with post-it notes.

3.  It’s not all about you.

If anyone can kick the selfishness right out of your system, it’s family.  I personally have an exceptional advantage in this area, given the sheer size of my family, but I also think that sharing a life with other people is a natural way to learn how to defer and consider the needs and wants of the ones around you.

4.  A good sense of humor can get you through (almost) anything.
This is a surprising lesson on the list, but nevertheless, I’ve discovered that it’s true.  If you can laugh at life, you can get through it.  And there’s nothing like family to make you aware of what a comedy it is to be alive.
5. Enjoy the small things.
At the risk of lapsing into cliches, (I am already well into cliche territory anyway), I will say that the whole of life is composed of small ordinary moments.  For much of us, the majority of these moments occur within our families.  My family has taught me that ordinary, every day life deserves to be celebrated.  Putting energy and care into the routine of daily life with whomever you spend it is an investment with the potential for limitless returns.
6. Look for the good.
Everyone is imperfect, and the imperfections of the ones you’re closest to can tend to be the most noticeable. This is where choice comes in.  Family can teach you a way of seeing that involves looking for the best in people.  If you look for the worst in people, you’ll find it, but the opposite of that is even truer.  If you look for the good in people, it will surprise you again and again.
7. Expect surprises.
Even the people you think you know most can surprise you.  My family teaches me –just by being who they are–that life is not something that you can really wrap your head around and understand.  In fact, it’s largely befuddling.  There is too much mystery and too many unexpected factors that come into play.  It’s worth it to learn to let yourself be surprised and enjoy the ride.
For those of you who may be concerned that we have morphed into a self-help blog, you can set your fears aside.  We’ll be back to addressing pertinent matters of contention and sharing our experiences in no time.

By Marie Murray, North American Director of Operations.