“Honour Thy Father And Mother”

At first read, we may tend to default to the more common usage of the word “honor” when we read the scripture that admonishes us to honor our father and mother (or—eek!—be put to death!), which is to regard with great respect. And while that certainly may be true, as we look at the world through ways in which we may be of service, there’s another definition for honor, and that is to fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement), as one would honor the terms of the contract.

It is with emphasis on this second definition where we really can set about to ponder exactly what our obligation is to those mothers and fathers who gave us life, raised us, influenced us, and protected us, as well as a reflection on all those who have gone before as we look to our forefathers and ancestral mothers whose lives and actions imbue the thread of connectivity between the generations with the traces of who we are and the circumstances that led to our existence.

Genealogy and Service

There is a quiet fascination when one takes time to discover more than filling in the family tree, but in getting acquainted with the characters that claim you as their fruit. Looking at the life of one who has gone before has an incredible way of summary, of looking at who they were in the context of the world, their world, and what their contribution was to it. It’s clarifying, and in so many cases, it’s absolutely inspiring.

As we reflect on our own lives, and wonder what contribution we may make in the here and now, our hearts and our creative minds turn to service. There isn’t a lot we take with us to the hereafter, but the things we can do for others have a remarkable way of lasting long after we are gone.

In a very real sense, genealogy and service are intrinsically connected. And it is in the most immediate expression of that connection where we can stop, pick up a phone, and call our parents, or someone who has stood in a parental capacity in our lives.

Reaching Out to Parents

I am somewhat ashamed to say that when I called my mom last week to see if there was anything my parents needed or something that I could help them with, the conversation started much differently. “Do you need us to watch your baby?” my mom said when I asked what they were up to that day. That’s my mom, always beating me to the punch, or maybe she just figured I only call when I need something. Wait a second, do I only call when I need something???!

Needless to say I was especially pleased in that moment to express that no, in fact, I didn’t need her to watch my kid, or do anything else for me, but that I was inquiring as to how they needed to be served. She demurred, until a few minutes later when I received a call back: “As a matter of fact we do need salt for our water softener,” she said. And I had the privilege to do something for them which they could not do for themselves. That of lifting heavy bags of salt at the various stages of buying, transporting, and unloading.

It wasn’t convenient. It wasn’t quick. But every moment was absolutely meaningful to me, and a complete joy. I was grateful for the opportunity not only to help my parents, but to connect with them in a way that was personal, engaging and real. Our relationships were fostered and cherished as we discussed life, with all its struggles and charms, books, movies, news and health amid our errands.

Worth the Effort

Honoring (Read: Serving) our parents takes effort, and that’s the point. All we really have to give to another person is our effort to show we care about them. It’s presence, not presents that my parents have made a lifestyle out of bequeathing to their children, and in those rarer moments of reciprocity, when I truly give them my presence, I feel the connection of kinship that I believe will carry through to my son and to future generations.