Craig Playstead looks at the three traits of successful families.
Since my divorce I’ve been thinking about families. A lot. Not in the typical way many have argued about families the past 20 years using topics like sexuality, race, gender, adoptions or anything like that. That stuff doesn’t matter, family can be made up of any mix you need it to.
I’ve been thinking deeper than that. About how different people view family, how upbringing sets the tone for how we approach family as adults, the future of families in our society, and what really makes a family great. See, we don’t seem to admire, appreciate, and respect families the way we used to. For this country to survive, that needs to change. And it starts with how we define families while raising our kids.
Thoughts were muddled in my head because I’ve seen so many families just tossed away, disposable. So I started thinking about traits those families, or the people in them, were missing. Maybe they were never taught to value family as kids, can’t truly connect with people, or couldn’t be vulnerable enough to completely trust others. Or maybe they just couldn’t be part of something bigger than themselves.
Those thoughts cleared up quickly after watching a video that went viral last week. You probably saw it. There was a family in Indiana who were average in every way, but showed us what family is really about. It wasn’t about race, money, social standing or blood. It was deeper. It was a selflessness and joy that comes from seeing true happiness from someone you love. It was family.
The video shows the family in a small house talking and hanging out in the kitchen like anyone else. Each voice tries to get a little louder than the other and then someone just starts laughing. Out of nowhere, an incredibly loud noise stops them dead in their tracks. The camera follows them to the window where they see, in plain view, a monstrosity of a car that has just rolled up. The guy driving revs the engine as high as it’ll go. There’s an energy in the room.
The camera pans back inside the small house to the older man with the sad eyes, big mustache, and kind face. He’s confused, but in a good way. Confused like the secretary who’s been busting her hump for 40 years in the same crappy office with weak coffee and bad lighting who suddenly wins the lottery. A wonderful mix of confusion and joy.
After fetching his shoes, he slowly makes his way outside where he starts to realize what he’s looking at, but can’t believe it. It’s the car from his late teens and early 20′s he was forced to sell decades ago, but never stopped talking about. The car that defined him at a time when he couldn’t define himself. The car that gave him that first taste of freedom and the one thing that’s been missing from his life since they parted ways so long ago. Funny how seemingly trivial things have meaning only a family can understand.
His adult son is driving the muscle car with a smile on his face that only true joy can bring. See, he’s tracked down his father’s car from Indiana to Florida, made the owner an offer he couldn’t refuse, and drove it home. He’s not rich or powerful and didn’t have high-up connections to make this possible. He did this with his family’s help because they knew it would give the person who’s sacrificed everything for their family the only thing that matters; happiness.
And that’s the key. A selflessness that only people in a family can truly understand. It’s putting others in your tribe before yourself, and putting family above anything or anyone else. While others might just say, “It’s just a stupid, banged up car,” his son knew it was much more than that to his dad. It was something that meant the world to a man he loved, who’s now in the twilight of his life while his prime is becoming a fading memory.
The best part? Seeing his dad jump into the car with his mom, just like they did 30 years ago and fishtail out of the driveway. It wasn’t just the sound of burning rubber, it was the sound of a gift only a family could give. Because only a family would know what this gift meant.
Now, I’m sure this family has its share of problems. There was probably a blowout at some point, hurt feelings, and maybe even some drama where people weren’t talking for a while. Mom probably wanted to bail a time or two and dad most likely got the itch too. The older brother may have knocked around the younger one on a daily basis, but fiercely protected him against anyone else that dared pick on him. But they powered through their issues and came back together stronger than ever with a spirit and an understanding only found by going through rocky times and coming out the other side.
It’s selflessness. Putting the happiness of your family before your own. The minute you put yourself or your happiness above your family, it’ll start to die because while family is bigger than any one person, it needs everyone to run strong. A family thrives on each member giving, forgiving, and ruthlessly protecting.
What also makes this family incredibly happy is trust. Seeing the joy the car brought the patriarch is a joy born from trust. A trust that’s only created by opening yourself up and being vulnerable without the fear of being hurt. That’s the only way to really know what makes someone tick like no one else can. If you lose that trust you lose direction, protection, and the feeling of acceptance. It can’t be replaced.
So the next time you try to define what family means think of selflessness, trust, and protection. And then think of the middle class family in Indiana who loves muscle cars…but even more, they love each other.
Here’s the video, it’s pretty awesome.
Originally published on Shake Your Foundation.