Saturday, July 30, 2011

Happy Days

Remember the TV show, Happy Days?  It was about a healthy, intact family. They were happy most of the time and, although they had squabbles and "issues", they were always loving and reconciled within half an hour.   The Cunninghams were the ideal family with just enough foibles to make them welcome in our homes.  Even the ultra-cool, loner, bad boy Fonzie wanted to be a part of the Cunningham family.  True to form, Marion, Howard, Richie, and Joanie welcomed The Fonz into the family.

Family comes up a lot here.  I remember hearing IBM managers say, "Family is most important..."  Of course, that often meant "as long as it doesn't interfere with this critical business issue..."   (Don't get me wrong.  IBM was a wonderful company to work for.  I am proud to be an alum!)  It isn't just IBM where the importance of family is equivocated.  You see it in all sorts of ways in our lives -- in the climb up the career ladder, needing "me" or "us" time, sports or exercise classes, and even when justifying a divorce.   (I cringe when I hear "the children will be better off...")

In the last month or so, I have seen in a new way why a healthy family is so important.   Angelo, the ex-con who spoke to the Alonzo Movement kids, was overcome with a sense of abandonment when his father left the family, contributing to his life of crime.  Maribel, still out on the streets with her babies, was deeply damaged by the constant message that she was too ugly for even the garbage man to pick up.  Jasmin, back in rehab, was raped by her father at age 7.  And the stories go on...63 of them at the Children's Home, 5 more at our safe house, and countless more at the El Cordero school and in the Alonzo Movement.   If you have been reading this blog, you know about these tragic stories of broken, dysfunctional families and lost childhoods.   And yet...

Last week I was struck by how deep and enduring the desire for family is.  Last Tuesday, several of the She Dances team had a devotional with the 5 safe house girls.  Before the final prayer, one of the girls asked if she could make a prayer request.  Of course.  She didn't ask for healing or courage or anything for herself.  She asked for prayers for her father - her abusive, alcoholic, absent father.  Prayers that he would give up alcohol and come back to the family.  One by one, each of the girls added prayer requests.  One wanted to meet her father, another wanted her family to be reunited, several wanted their families to come to God.  Not one of these young girls who have suffered so much asked for anything for herself.   They simply asked for their heart's desire - a reunited, reconciled and faithful family.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who places solitary persons in families: We commend to your continual care the homes in which your people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech you, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in marriage, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (BCP).  
And, Lord, give these precious children Happy Days.  Amen