Friday, September 01, 2006

Family Tradition

I am very proud of my daddy's name
although his kinda music and mine ain't exactly the same
stop and think it over put yourself in my position
if i get stoned and sing all night long
it's a family tradition

Don't ask me Hank, why do you drink?
(Hank) why do you roll smoke?
Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?
If I'm down in a Honky-Tonk
Some ol' slicks tryin to give me corrections
I'll say leave me alone, I'm singin all night long
it's a family tradition.

(From Family Tradition by Hank Williams, Jr.)

Ol' Hank loves to pass off his rowdy ways on upholding the ways of his daddy. But I've been thinking about traditions lately, and I wonder how many are simply excuses, rationalizations and justifications.

I talked about tradition with a couple of different people yesterday. One man is carrying on the family tradition of making root beer and selling it at county fairs. His grandparents started doing it in 1939. His aunt got into the act in 1948. He helped out after his grandfather passed away in 1962, but didn't launch fully into the tradition until 1976. He's still making and selling the stuff, thirty years later, proudly carrying on the tradition begun by his grandfather almost 70 years before.

Another lady is county fair nut enthusiast. At the age of 77, she still is at the fair every hour that the grounds are open to the public. Why? Her family used to work there when she grew up. She and her sisters would open the gates in the morning, sell tickets for the amusements all day, then close the gates at night. "It was our fair," she told me. "It's still our fair. I just can't leave." Now that seems silly to most of us, but her family tradition has her latched to a parcel of land for seven straight days every year. And she loves every minute of it.

I also saw someone yesterday with a different family tradition. Actually, calling it a family tradition isn't exactly accurate. This boy, whom I will call James, never had a father and lost his mother at an early age. For most of his 16 years, James has been shuffled from temporary home to foster home to orphanage. His tradition is that there is no family, no one worth trusting. And sadly, James' tradition is that he can do as he wishes. If he does something wrong, the worst that will happen is a move to another foster home or shelter.

Back in March, James moved into another foster home. This one was working out well, and James told the couple that he wanted to stay with them. The next day he attacked his foster mother with a knife, stabbing her multiple times and even slashing the couple's 13-year-old daughter, who got away to call for help. The woman survived, and James is off to prison for 18 years.

As my wife and I talked about James, we wondered if James had been blessed with a good, stable family if he would have turned out the way he did. We'll never know, of course, but it sure seems like he would have had a better chance.

I cringe when I see parent of young kids out in public, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other, and obscenities written on their t-shirts. I see WAY too many of these, and I wonder what chance those kids have. Surely I'll see those kids in twenty years, talking and acting in the same fashion as their parents. Family tradition, right?

And then I thought about the one power that can break the tradition.

I was blessed incredibly with a great family while growing up. I was adopted as an infant, so I realize that my present life could be startlingly different than it is today. I accepted Christ early in life, so there was no huge turnaround story. It wasn't hard to accept Christ publically -- that was what was expected of me. Family tradition, if you will.

What was actually hard was doing more than walk the aisle to the altar. The hard part was putting feet to my faith and living out what I believe. That's still the hard part, you know?

But back to James... what was going to take him out of a childhood full of violence and crime? Sure the love of a mother and father can be big influences. But I know plenty of kids who have gone bad while growing up in a lovely home environment.

Let's face it. There is only one Way out. Whether He's pulling me away from daily temptations or whether he's pulling the violent kid toward a life of obedience to Christ, there is only one Way.

Family traditions aren't broken easily.


Kim said...

What was actually hard was doing more than walk the aisle to the altar. The hard part was putting feet to my faith and living out what I believe. That's still the hard part, you know?

Absolutely. It's also hard trying to convey to young people that the walk down the aisel isn't the end; it's only the beginning.

Annette said...

well written, thank you.

Gregory said...

Your post hits home in a rather big way. Our daughter was adopted from the foster care system, and we are trying our best, through tears, prayers, and gritted teeth to do exactly what you state -- to break an old family tradition and reintroduce her to a new family tradition based on our family and the family of God. Despite some overwhelming mental and behavioral disorders, we pray daily that she doesn't follow the old paths or walk the way of James. As you said, there is only one Way, and our job is to not only show her the path, but to lead her on it.