Some families have mission statements. Together, they craft a short paragraph that will guide the family’s practices and shape its ethos. They post the mission statement in a prominent place in their home to remind them of their deepest values and sense of calling.
We are not one of those families. We do not shine when it comes to visionary planning. No, we rock a willy-nilly, go with the chaotic flow, and clean up afterwards approach to life. Yes, my husband does love planning (and research, oh the research), but after fourteen years, I have
beaten him into submission won his willingness to go with my haphazard ways.
I realized the other day, though, that we had intuited our way to a working mission statement. Although we have never articulated it and certainly never framed it on the wall, we pursue one overriding goal as a family: to be good news wherever we are.
We want to bless whatever place we are in and whatever people we are with. To be good news is to act and speak in such a way that people are glad you came. There are a hundred ways to do this in any circumstance and there is freedom in which one you choose. We do not prescribe for our kids exactly how to be good news, but we have made it clear that they need to keep an eye on that goal.
The vagueness of this idea of being good news gives us a wide berth in choosing how to apply it, but it’s clear enough what fits and what doesn’t. Attentively listening to a service provider talk about his day fits; yelling at him doesn’t. Looking at your waitress and talking to her politely is being good news; skimping on the tip is not. Naming and celebrating your friend’s gifts make you good news in her life; putting her down to try to build yourself up makes you the opposite.
Rick tends to boost the people around him through gentle respectfulness, good food, wry wit, and quiet service. I do it more often through relational committedness, probing interest in others, general zany-ness, and occasional tough truth-telling.
My kids have begun to bless those around them with good attitudes, sensitivity to other kids’ feelings, and tangible generosity. Truthfully, we have only recently been able to see these capacities in our kids. As they’ve grown into big kids, their ability to see and care for others has become much clearer. It is encouraging to watch the self-absorption of the pre-schooler give way to the compassion of the elementary schooler.
We have tried to model for our kids being good news to everyone from their classmates to the plumber, from teachers to cashiers, from the postman to smaller kids we meet out in public. We want to be good news in our neighborhood, in our school, with our colleagues, with our extended family, and even on the internet. Are we treating each individual we come across with warmth, respect, and appropriate attention?
(This is easier to do, of course, out in the world than it is at home. All five of us have a lot of growing to do at home. Kindness to strangers can be so much easier than kindness to family.)
Our mission to be good news, of course, flows from our belief in THE good news. How could we, who have been so lavishly loved and cared for not extend warmth and care to those around us? Out of our experience of God’s abundance, we try to extend abundance to others.
Most of the time, this is fun. You never know what blessings will ricochet back to you. Sometimes, though, it requires extra measures of self-control and patience. It is in those moments that the power of habit is seen. Because I’m in the habit of pushing myself to be kind and warm, it comes more easily in situations where I’m tempted to be the opposite.
It is my deep hope that every place a Goetsch turns up will be better for it. May we be an asset wherever we are. May we not just believe the good news, but may we ourselves be good news to the people around us.
What about you, do you have a personal or family mission statement? One that you’ve formally chosen or one, like ours, that you operate under without articulating it?
© Laura Goetsch and Thinking About Such Things, 2016