THE INDISPENSABLE PLACE AND ROLE OF THE FAMILY IN THE LIFE OF COMMUNITIES AND NATIONS (PART SEVEN): THE NECESSITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL FOR THE FAMILY

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This seventh and concluding article of the series centered on the family and its indispensable place in all human societies, draws particular attention to the necessity of the individual person for the family and wider society. The premise of the article is that just as every person needs a family for her/his survival, growth and total development, in some significant ways the family also needs the individual. Families and all human institutions are made of up individuals and therefore needs every person for their full potential to be realized. While no one person is indispensable to the family, the absence of the contribution of every person diminishes, somehow, the overall good of the family. How? We shall see below. The sixth article of the series on the necessity of the family for the overall welfare of every person made the following points:

Of all animals man is the most social. From birth to the grave she/he is surrounded by the immediate family. When she/he leaves the family born into she/he often forms a family of he/his own or some other association for the rest of life. During infancy, as compared to other animals, the human person is the most dependent and for the longest period before she/he is able to cater to self in some meaningful ways (from the first hour to about three to four years). For the first three months one is totally dependent on others. She/he needs others to feed her/him, clean her/him, turn her/him over if she/he gets tired lying on one side. She/he depends on others to learn how to talk and to be able to respond to the surroundings appropriately.

It has been proven that a person who is provided with the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter and security but denied of all human interactions will not be able to hear and speak. The human person would not survive the first days and months of life without the loving support of the parents or other caregivers fulfilling the role of the parents. The ideal situation for every child is to be raised by a loving father and mother who themselves show love and respect to each other. But the reality is that millions are deprived of caring and dependable parents (whether biological or adopted) and must do with whatever parental care (however inadequate) available.

The implications of this dependency are profound. It means therefore the parents and the entire family or their equivalents are necessary for the survival and development of every person. In light of this sociality of all human beings, every individual is obliged to be grateful to her/his family. She/he must learn early and increasing with the years of maturity to make some sacrifices for the greater good of the family.

The Apostle Paul likens the Church community to that of a body with many parts and yet each part making its contribution towards the overall function and health of the whole body. This analogy of the Church as a body with many parts can be extended to any fully functioning human institution such as the family or community or nation. Paul writes: “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a member of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you…’ If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

The lesson is crystal clear. All human beings are interdependent. They need others and others need them. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once correctly put it, “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” An African proverb says, “I am because we are and, since we are, therefore I am.” The individual needs the family. The family needs the individual. They need to work together for the good of one another and the whole.

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