A couple of years ago I received an e-mail from the writer and award-winning playwright Anne Bradshaw. She asked me to submit a piece for her new book, Famous Family Home Evenings. I was happy to comply. One of the perks of being a published author is to meet so many wonderful people.
As I thought about it, I could not think of anything more profound than the story I share here.
We have been blessed with nine children--born within a period of 19 years. We are true experts in fatigue, frustration, chaos and fun. A friend who also has nine children commented to me years ago, “I don’t raise them, I just herd them around.” I can relate.
As our family grew, I realized that we needed family home evenings that celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. I searched many books and came across a simple idea we adopted. Family home evenings that are complicated do not work for me. I love simplicity and especially simplicity that is effective.
The format we developed we call “Celebrating the One”. We use it for special occasions—birthdays, recovery from illness, leaving on a mission, getting married, and during times of rebellion. It helps almost any time someone needs or deserves being praised, built up and included…which is most of the time!
Sometimes we select spontaneously “the one” whom we are celebrating, other times the honored one is announced a few days in advance so every one can prepare. After opening prayer we go around the room and, with an open heart, share why we love and admire “the one” being honored. Each person takes their turn expressing positive and sincere compliments and insights to “the one.” Sometimes special letters or poems or songs are written to honor “the one.” Frequently there is laughter, always there are tears. In a sweet way, the spirit enters our home during those special occasions, in response, I think, to sincere expressions of love. In a busy and often cynical world, we frequently fail to speak words of love to those we should love the most…our family.
As hearts warm and draw close, we often linger long after the activity is over. Siblings who may have been at odds with one another are laughing, joking, hugging and apologizing. Defenses and personal walls around hearts melt. Occasionally during these special times, some of us have sensed angels joining us. It may be an unborn child preparing to come to our family or deceased loved ones or others who love us through the veil. They seem to be smiling upon us, joyful at the love and the spirit of the Lord that is fostered by expressions of love.
I share an example of one of our gatherings. Years ago, when one of our children was struggling through a rebellious phase, we announced a day I would prepare the rebellious ones’ favorite dinner, followed by desert at their favorite yogurt store to insure that he would show up—a most effective tactic we have learned. We had privately spoken to the other children about our concerns for this child and asked them to pray for their sibling during the week before the meeting. We primed the pump by applying a technique Stephen Covey describes in one of his books called “Twelve Hugs a Day” in which an unhappy or rebellious child receives at least 12 physical or emotional hugs (praise, compliments, thanks) per day. When I read about it, I was so desperate to reach this child that I didn’t even allow myself to think it was too simple. I just did it.
We had a good week with him, the whole family practicing the “12 hugs a day” deal whenever we could. Some of the kids did kind things for him such as making his bed or baking cookies. During the evening of our special meal we each took turns expressing love and praise to “the one.” Later, at the yogurt store, with his older brother’s arm around him, this young man promised first his brother and then all of us that he was ready to change. And the miracle was that he did, as we continued to shower him with love and encouragement. I don’t know if that blessing would have come at that time had we not “Celebrated the One.”
So you see, it has become not only an enjoyable practice, but a tradition in our family to “Celebrate the One.” We feel it honors and verifies the power of our Savior’s command, “…love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).