For many of us, we grew up at a time, when being “middle-class” was a badge of honor represented by the clothes we wore and the inevitable understanding of a hand-me-down culture. I personally received clothes, toys, and anything else possible of being used by many people over a period of time. My family never re-gifted something considered a hand-me-down, but they did place an importance on the items given, and the consideration was the base for many discussions and lectures during my youth. Over the years, due to my upbringing, I cherish an item given to me by another. This carries with it a significance of sizeable proportions when I’m aware of the struggle or expense required to attain the item now being generously given away. Furthermore, I’m not removed from the societal implications of this no longer being a mainstay of family direction, but instead realize the paradigm of a throw-away culture. “Nothing is meant to last forever”, I will hear people flippantly remark, and as I would agree in large part with a material focus, it seems like our culture has embraced a “live like you’re dying” mentality and focused on the “me” and the “now” aspects of this perceived newest of paradigms. Think back on those times when you were the youngest, and you were bound to obey the instructions of the adults closest to you. Perhaps your parents, grandparents, teachers, or just the older adults in the neighborhood you grew up in, and in those adults, did they pass along a moral teaching or truth which you’ve held on to this very day?
This is where we’re at, a point in time, where the masses are scurrying around searching for truth, and at the mere mention by anyone of the truth we desire, we come running, only to find disappointment. Why do we find disappointment? Simply because, anything which isn’t the real truth, cannot be, no matter how hard it tries, the fulfillment in our lives imprinted by the Spirit of God. Of course, some will get close, but an aberration of a truth is still a subjective reminder of the existence without a morality focused on love of one another rather than love of self. So, have the teachings from those adults stayed with you? Have you found yourself, either plagued with this persistent teaching, or comforted by the reliance on something which no matter the situation bears a light to the situation no others can compare to? Take for instance, when I was a child, I was exposed to hatred by the society I lived in, and upon asking my parents for some clarification, some semblance of truth as I navigated these foreign waters, I was exposed to a truth. My father explained to me, the essence of love is a matter of allowing another person the right to make a decision or a choice. God does this for each and every one of us, our free will is our choice to love God or to turn away. My question to my father, was as a result of being pushed into a belief of something, which I neither agreed with, nor could I reconcile the harsh existence of something claiming to be so beautiful. His words, over twenty years later, still ring in my mind as a truth. He said, “son, to scare or force another into belief, will never work, people must be allowed to choose of their own free will”, and although he didn’t tell me this to get a quote out of what I might write one day, he told me this because this was the lessons he’d learned over a life mixed with turmoil and abandonment. His hand-me-down philosophy was something of ground breaking at the time, but has become a principle, and fills me with a light of truth I hope to give anyone who reads my words. His explanation of a truth he learned and handed down to me, has become my hand-me-down to you.
In our culture, of course, everyone has a truth, and no one has a real voice. We are small in comparison to this world and to its ideas, but the need to make a mark or being something more than we are derides the values of the past and risks to ruin the hand-me-downs of those who once put our benefit above all others. Saint Teresa of Kolkata said once, “For love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.” Wise words from a Saint, but can we really say we’re willing to put ourselves out there so we risk hurt, pain, or loss? As a father, I’m conflicted about giving a moral or teaching to my children without indicating the negative consequences (perceived as positives from those less experienced) from disobeying the morals or objective truths about what I’m passing down. My son tests me from time-to-time, and for good measure, he is very bright and finding his path in life risks derailing him from what he wants rather than what he needs. I fear I was worse when I was his age, this is my penance, by passing on what I learned, handing down my experiences and exposing him to the moral truths in life.
As we speak, we can turn on any news agency and determine who is outraged by what and why and why they pontificate it to a largely anonymous audience. We are tasked with weeding through those instances which are true outrage and the ones conjured up by a media seeking ratings over a moral existence. We are bombarded by constant subjective changes in what we once saw as an immovable moral, to something we can take or leave based on our mood. People who once stood up for an objective truth and moral life are being vilified as racists, bigots, or pariah to a society poised for greatness on the brink of moral destruction. Those lessons once passed down by fathers, mothers, neighbors, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and clergy are either being abandoned by the culture wholesale or are being put to question daily by sources seeking a stream of revenue more lucrative today than even yesterday. Do you ever ask yourself, why have we gone down this path? Why have we accepted the direction of those who so clearly have a motivation for us following? Like many other people, I was looking for anything to help direct me and I was truly lost in the wilderness of life. At my lowest point I was brought to love by those who were willing to risk my anger and ire to expose me to a truth so wonderful and painful the catharsis of my soul is still happening. The growth from which has helped form my life into an unceasing need to express my regret and thanks for the moral teachings, I was given, and to attempt in whatever way possible to pass along what I’ve been blessed to see.
Ok, so where do we go as a society, who throws away everything, and yet is still seeking what we’ve thrown away. We are like a bunch of mental patients, off our medications, because we didn’t think they worked, but for anyone objectively watching, we clearly need our medications back. The hand-me-downs of faith, culture, morality, justice, truth, and love are very much needed in their undiluted form. This begins in the home, this begins with full families teaching those morals to the children they love so dearly. Earlier, I mentioned my father, and his care and love for my moral learning, his soft-handed approach was there when discussion was needed to smooth out an idea, wrinkled in my mind over undisciplined thought and action. My mother, helped with the harder topics, she was the discipline master. She never feigned her responsibilities as a woman with a disciplined focus, sometimes as a child I thought she was angry and wrong. As an adult, and as a father, I see she was spot on. She was passing down a need to focus on discipline through action, and then take this very rudimentary method of living and apply it to every aspect of my life. Her disciplined approach, and my father’s philosophical truths of morality and faith provided me with a foundation to set my life upon. A foundation, through my own actions, where I strayed, but eventually came back to, a foundation which lights my soul and warms my heart at every thought.
Children need these hand-me-down truths, even if they don’t know why they need them, even if the parent isn’t completely sure why they teach them. With anything, we do as a tradition, we should learn why we do what we do, but to deny the tradition, because we see no current use is to deny the truth of those who’ve come before us without tasking ourselves to explore the method behind the wisdom. Our perspective isn’t the means of all explanation, our perspective isn’t the wise arbiter of all truth, so, why would we assume because we don’t see a purpose in teaching we can therefor discount this teaching as coming from a different time and place with no relevance to today? I think this is where we find ourselves as a culture. We question everything, and when we don’t get a satisfactory answer, and when we can’t see a purpose, we abandon anything which meets this criteria. We see the abandonment of the traditional family, roles in marriage, faith, politics, society, and life.
The traditional role of the family has always been one woman and one man bound by a covenant with God, in the expression of love, to grow a family in the teachings of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”(CCC 1601). However, as a society we’ve abandoned this truth, and we’ve replaced it with a convenient substitution which states, as long as there is a loving parent, then the children will have a subsequent upbringing. For anyone, who was brought up in a loving home, this doesn’t pass the smell test, it stinks to high heaven. So, let me be clear, no, the natural set of circumstances is two parents (biologically) created a child or children, and it is the natural set of circumstances they will raise and teach these children. Whenever we’re exposed to an abridged or unnatural version of this paradigm, we find circumstances of unfulfilled expectations. Children who grow up in broken families as a result of divorce or any other circumstance as a prevention of the natural means of family creation, risk throwing away what the generations before us figured out, due to an embracing of hubris to an altered reality.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying there aren’t good people in bad situations. There are, and this speaks more to the testament of time than the person. Time doing anything will result in consequences which take on different shapes and severity over which families and society are affected. This isn’t to say, there bears with the consequences a blameless architect, but instead carries with it a clarity of focus to stop the machine of duplicity, degradation, immorality, and villainy. If we see a problem, then we have a moral duty to stop this problem. This begins with discourse and action, not a fear of risking the anger of those who, like many, would run from the truth when confronted with it. This means, taking charge of our society means, keeping the family above all else. I don’t mean for anyone to stay in a relationship, which harms their life or health in any way. No, I mean to teach the younger generations to look for the right one, to find those qualities in another which will complement their own, and approach marriage in a realistic and permanent way. Too often, young couples approach marriage with a throw-away quality. They say to themselves, “I hope it works, but if it doesn’t then I hope I meet someone who loves me”. The sentiment is relayed over and over, in one variation or another, from couple to couple in our society. We’ve defeated ourselves before we’ve had a chance to race. Any good coach will tell an athlete, they must visualize the win before they can realize it. Although, marriage isn’t something to be won, we can recognize the wisdom from those words, we must be willing to walk through the fires in our marriage, if we hope to rest beside those cool waters on the other side.
For those of us, who’ve either been divorced or live in a relationship not meeting the standards we hope to achieve, change begins with you. It begins by your approach to the moral truths in your life and the embracing of those hand-me-down traditions, the previous generations figured out and gave to us. As a father, I’m often times surprised by the shenanigans of my children, I’m even further surprised by the stories of older generations dealing with identical situations semantics aside. A hand-me-down society is a society intent on learning from the past, learning from the mistakes of others and applying best practice to meet today’s challenges. A moral society, is a society willing to meet those challenges, while standing on the side of right, and refusing the temptation of the wrong. There are definite wrongs and rights of life, there are those who would dissuade to simply bring more to their way of thinking, regardless of the wrongness of their actions. A sin is a sin, and sin isn’t pretty. It is wrong, no matter how we try to dress it up, and as a matter of course, when people are doing anything wrong, they always attempt to bring others along with them. “The road to hell, is wide, and paved with good intentions”, never were more were truer. Being compassionate to the condition or plight of others, doesn’t preclude a need to do what is right. An individual who marks time in their life with a pursuance of “their truth” and then finds negative consequences awaiting them, deserves compassion, but they also deserve an exposure to the hand-me-down truth of their decisions. As men and women in this culture, if you’re not willing to stand up for what is right, who will. Are you waiting for the next champion? What if you’re the champion needed?
Are hand-me-downs a bad thing? The answer is, no! We must get over our arrogance and stop assessing the past as what was wrong, and looking at now, as what is right. If we continue this, the logical fallacy would be, even now is past, and is it wrong as well? Our embrace of those truths passed to us, can only be considered when the person passing the morality was moral themselves. As I’ve pointed out before, a person without faith cannot have a morality based in objective truths, their reality is purely subjective, and advice or hand-me-down truths will be full of holes because of the dilution needed to fit their truth in time. No one wants a hand-me-down full of holes and stretched thin to fit what it was never meant to fit. Place importance on your role to pass down those moral teachings to the younger generations, give them a strong principle to rest upon, and create in them the need to have a clean heart in order to push this culture in the right direction. A journey up a mountain by one’s self is an arduous journey, fraught with peril and the risk of falling at any time. A journey up a mountain with those who have already walked its paths becomes easier and makes the traverse bearable, even at the most fearful of points. However, a walk up the mountain when God is involved, is as simple as believing, and the obstacle was as if it never existed. God is where our joy in life must be found, God is where we must find our humility to accept the wisdom and traditions of the past, and God is where our faith must be to move those mountains which risk to prevent us from finding the summit and seeing the vastness of what we don’t truly know. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!