In my experience, everyone has one dominant value that drives most of their choices. For some, frugality is the value that guides their decision-making. For others, it is convenience and efficiency. For many, it is the desire to get the very best for their kids. Yes, most of us also have secondary and tertiary values that also influence the choices we make, but I think most of us have a gut instinct that is heavily influenced by one dominant value, maybe two.
My highest value, the one that drives my decisions, is relationships. In everything I do I want there to be a relational payoff. Questions like Will I meet people who I will be able to see again?, Does this activity embed me further in existing relationships?, Does this choice tap into my existing network and deepen or grow it? and How can I match up my friends and acquaintances with each other? drive my choices. Of course, these questions are usually informing my choices at a subconscious level. I am acting according to my value of relationships without even realizing it.
For my husband, the dominant value is honoring the earth. He is driven by questions like How will this affect the earth? Will this thing I am thinking of doing harm the earth or help it? So, when we chose to not buy a second car and have him ride the bus to work instead, it was mostly about his deep love for creation. For others, that decision would have been primarily about saving money. The financial savings is an (enormous) added bonus for Rick, but it was not his driving motivation.
Our dominant values are highly influenced by our parents and the homes we were raised in, of course. To call my parents relational is an understatement. They are the type of people who have never met a stranger, only people with whom they have not yet had the chance to become friends. Now in their late 60s and early 70s, they are still making new friends and “networking” for the sheer joy of it. From my earliest memory, I was surrounded by friends who were treated like family.
Rick was raised in the country on six acres. His brothers and he were each given their own tree house and their own garden plot to tend. In his late 70s, my father-in-law is still cultivating an acre-sized garden every year. Cherries, lettuce, and peas, oh my! This type of upbringing gives a boy a deep love of the earth and its beautiful capabilities.
Thankfully, Rick’s and my dominant values work together well most of the time. Very often, a choice to prioritize relationships is also a choice to honor the earth. For instance, when when we chose to buy a house in walking distance to the elementary school, for Rick this was primarily about using our legs instead of gasoline. For me, it was about the fact that walking to school ensures you bump into your neighbors and see the other school families day in and day out. I would have to forfeit this interaction if we attended a school that required I drive my kids to school and simply get in the “pick-up line” every afternoon. When we put our kids in the community Rec & Ed soccer league, not only are we saving gas (and time) by not driving to games all over the state, but we are going deeper in local relationships as the teams are composed of kids from our own school and coached by their parents. When I chose the local YMCA as my gym rather than a chain fitness center in a strip mall, I chose a location that not only could I bike to but also one where I would run into people I knew.
As we make choices according to our dominant values, we necessarily have to let other values go. To have the type of highly relational walking neighborhood we want, we have had to let go of convenience and to lower the value of frugality. (And I fully acknowledge that we were in a position to be able to do this. Not everyone has the means to choose what type of neighborhood they want to plant themselves in.) What do I mean by letting go of convenience and frugality? These types of “walking neighborhoods” are made up of older, smaller houses and they are often more expensive. So, good-bye mud room. (Sob!) Good-bye homes with many updated bathrooms, and good-bye modern kitchen! Good-bye attached garage. And good-bye reasonable taxes. Good-bye state of the art school on its own cul-de-sac.
But hello neighbor whom I bump into on my walk to the coffee shop! And hello other families with kids the same age who also walk to school every day and who play soccer with mine. And hello fellow school parent whom I run into at the gym. And hello sister of my next door neighbor who happens to work at that gym. And hello to my neighbor whose older daughter babysits for my kids, whose younger son is in my daughter’s class, and who goes to church with some of our best friends.
Hello to a relational net that is strong enough to hold me and my family both on an average day and during a time of trouble. When my husband is gravely ill or when I have to take my daughter to the ER or when I just need to borrow a couple of eggs, there are people nearby to call on for help. It is in the overlapping relationships and repeated interactions that the weaving gains strength. Each connection and each interaction add a new length of rope. Sometimes what I am weaving is a safety net, and other times it is a relaxing hammock. All this sewing creates a very strong and versatile piece of weaving.
© Laura Goetsch and goetschblog, 2015.