Monday, October 11, 2010
At Mass this past Sunday we heard someone share about a good deed done for some children who came from "broken homes". While the remainder of the message about sharing and doing good to others without expecting to receive thanks in return may have had its merits, I was personally distracted by the expression "broken home". I leaned over to my beautiful grown daughter and whispered, "That's probably not a good term to use in church." She replied, "But what other term is there?" I said, "By his reckoning, you are from a broken home." Hmm. I'm not sure she had thought of it that way. I suggested, "Divorced, impoverished, underprivileged?" How about just describing the particular needs of the ones being helped? To me, the term was the equivalent of the 1950s term "crippled". Let's not condemn people to being broken forever.
While it's true, my beautiful children had the misfortune to be born to a father and mother who became divorced, I hardly thought of our family as broken. But it seems many others did, and perhaps still do. I will likely go to my grave defending the choices I've made as a well intentioned but imperfect mother. It's a difficult job and it seems despite my resolve, I was less than terrific. But it was not made easier by those who saw us as broken. We had different challenges, to be sure. But I never thought of my children as from a broken home. Their dad and I still loved them, still cared for them. My children still had many benefits, including a safe environment to live, opportunities for education, and extended family that cared about them. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, sang and read books in our home. There was heat in the winter and chances to cool off in the summer. We had winter coats and mittens and beds to sleep in. There were friends and events we shared with others. There was laughter and there were tears. There were vacations. There was love in our home.
So what do we mean when we say a home is broken?
Sometimes divorce is not the breaking of something. Sometimes it is the fixing of something. I would never call it an easy fix. Never, ever. But please, isn't there another term you could use that wouldn't label so many people as broken? Some term that wouldn't sting us again and again. Really.