On this day when we celebrate romantic love, I wanted to mention that the words “home” and “family” bring happy feelings and warm memories to some and dismal feelings and regret to others. The word “homeless” is possibly the saddest of all words. In the Bible story of the first murder, the guilty party’s punishment was a life of homeless wandering. The Land of Nod where Cain had to dwell was said to be no land at all but a condition that required people to keep moving. It would seem--at least in the literary imagination--that the homeless wandering state was inherited by the descendants of Cain. Even in the early Anglo-Saxon epic “Beowulf” the monster who keeps raiding the home of the Danes is said to do so because he is of the lineage of Cain and is consequently jealous of people who have a permanent roof over their heads.
As to the word “family,” people who appreciate their heritage, protect their relationships and desire the best for their children and their children’s children, value familial relationships in ways second only to their relationship with God. When I was teaching in Magnolia, I applied for a job at a college in Wyoming. One of the people at the college in Magnolia who wrote a letter of recommendation in my behalf mentioned that I was a strong family man. That person told me the recipient called him and asked him why he thought it was important to write that about me. Apparently the Wyoming professor thought the fact that I was a family man was irrelevant to the position for which I had applied. I didn’t get the job. Oh, well.
To me, what the Magnolia reference wrote is the most relevant thing one could say about any professional. One who values family probably is a faithful and diligent worker. On the other hand, those who are unappreciative of their heritage and foster hateful and unforgiving relationships are doubtless lousy workers. Like all generalizations, those I just made are not true in all situations, but it has been my experience that those who value family are almost always more honorable than those who do not.
One reason so many people love Norman Rockwell’s paintings is the fact that he obviously recognized the importance of home and family. Stereotyped and idealized though his paintings may be, they do convey the warmth and joy of home, of belonging, of being part of a family.
Because we are so busy today trying to make ends meet, let’s not forget why we are working so hard. Isn’t it because we want a home and family? Isn’t it because home is more than just a place, but a condition of the heart? Don’t we work so hard so that our children and children’s children can have a good life—homes and families of their own?
Two final thoughts: there used to be a guy on the radio who had a short editorial that ended with the words, “It takes a heap of living to make a home.” And the final thought: there is a song performed on “Prairie Home Companion” that has this lyric, “Why do we work so hard to get what we don’t even want?” Happy Valentine’s Day.