By Vince DiPasquale
“All growth takes place in a family system.” We are not islands. Each of us is a book in the process of being written. Whenever we come to gather and share our story, we learn and grow from each other. Do not hide your gifts and talents, as they need to be shared in order for them to grow.
Let’s take time during this special month of rebirth to reflect on the many family systems we have all been part of:
- Birth family: they have given us the gift of life. In some early family systems they may have given us many lessons that we would understand better later. They have taught us the gift of struggle. In growing up, they have even taught us how to deal with different forms of dysfunction. Just like us, they were not perfect. They understood so much from their own history. Take time to research your parents’ history. They taught us the lessons of their own journey. I have so much gratitude today for the lessons my parents taught me. I had to get upset at them, then learn the lessons from them. Today I’m grateful for the small lessons. My Mom gave me my addictive personality, which in turn gave me the gift of recovery today. My Dad taught me many lessons like, ‘Don’t be afraid to fall down because then you will learn how to get up.’
- My Italian family and neighborhood: they gave me a strong sense of belonging. Take time to reflect and embrace your roots. Our history is our greatest teacher. I learned at an early age to be proud of my community. We took care of each other and learned from one another. We hurt, fought, and loved together. We learned that nothing stays the same. We experience growth and loss in community. We learned how to say goodbye so we could say hello.
- Religious and non-religious systems: As a child I was taught a God of fear and guilt and over the years it has become a great relationship with a God of love. Reflect on your relationship with God. I am often asked, since I was formerly a Catholic priest, if I am still Catholic. My answer is sometimes. Sometimes I’m Catholic, sometimes Buddhist, sometimes Muslim, sometimes Protestant. I can relate to them all. Take what you can use and leave the rest. Everything is always in the process of change and growth. There are no absolutes. Our faith and worship come from a sense of community. The early Christians were a true community. They shared everything and lived a simple life, based on love and sharing. They taught us to respect and honor each other as the Lord teaches ~ whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me. We are equal in the eyes of God. Let’s learn to respect and honor all. The secret to real spiritual growth is to love, honor, respect and care for ourselves and others. ‘Love your neighbors as you love yourself’.
We belong to many communities as we go through life. Today I can relate to many communities. I have the privilege and honor to be a part of my blood family, my married family, my wife, my stepdaughters, my grandchildren, all gifts from God to be loved and respected. I also have a recovery community that has given me the true spirit of spirituality and love. God has given me, through them, the gift of the 12 Steps and Principles of Life. I’m humbled to be able to work in the recovery world.
Today I am also a part of a throwback community, Holiday City, where I live. It’s like living once again in the neighborhoods of South Camden and South Philadelphia. I have such wonderful friends and neighbors and I love going home. It truly takes a community to raise a child. We are all God’s children and still learning and growing. As Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’
We will all one day be reunited with all of life’s communities in the unseen world of God, the ultimate community.
Sending love and prayers to all. May God bless and guide us on our journey today and every day.