By Barb Arland-Fye
While visiting family this summer, I became entangled in a debate with my brother Brian about why our economy is experiencing a shortage of workers. Brian asked me to call his son Tom, a recruiter in the healthcare field, for his take on the issue but I declined the offer. My brother and I had reached a stalemate and we said goodnight.
The next morning, I sensed God whispering in my conscience to make amends for the manner and outcome of the debate. Brian was still asleep in one of the guest bedrooms and I was heading out for a long trip home. So I talked to another brother, Tim, our host that weekend, to try to deconstruct the debate and to learn from it. Tim had witnessed the debate but, wisely, did not jump into it.
Always the diplomat, he assured me that the debate was not awful and we were still family members who cared about each other. The one thing I could have done better was to acknowledge and accept Brian’s request to call his son Tom, Tim suggested. That small gesture would have signaled to Brian that I was listening to him and that his opinion mattered. I had nothing to lose by calling Tom and everything to gain: an opportunity to listen to my nephew’s ideas and to congratulate him on his upcoming wedding.
At my request, Tim checked to see if Brian was awake so that we could say goodbye and I could make amends. Brian arrived in the kitchen, still looking a little sleepy, but a broad smile appeared on his face at the news that I would call his son. We hugged each other and I reminded Brian that I loved him.
About a week passed before I finally texted Tom. Why would he want to chat with an aunt he rarely sees and is calling him for the first time? Tom, however, responded with an enthusiastic voicemail message, asking to set up a time to talk. Our conversation later that week was enjoyable and helpful. Tom said it has been challenging to fill healthcare positions, regardless of salary. We discussed some possible reasons for the shortage of workers, both of us gaining some insights in the process. I congratulated him on his upcoming wedding and he said he hoped I would be able to attend. An invitation was in the mail.
A couple of nights later, I called Brian to let him know that I followed through with my promise. He was grateful and said so. The bond we share as members of a close-knit family, nurtured in the domestic church our parents created, endures. Love matters more than politics.
“In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others,” Pope Francis says in “The Joy of Love” (“Amoris Laetitia”). In our families, we “come to realize that we are living with and alongside others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness and our affection.” This awareness helps us to move beyond ourselves.
As Pope Francis observes in his latest encyclical, “On Fraternity and Social Friendship” (“Fratelli Tutti”), “Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all” (No. 94).
God’s whisper in my conscience was about stretching myself to seek the best for others and not about winning a debate.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)