LANKFORD: Our Families Need Us
If our families are strong, our nation is strong. If our families are weak, our nation is weak. Nations struggle when families struggle; it’s just that simple. We are more interconnected than ever through social media, but we are also more isolated than ever. Government cannot solve our isolation; only families can solve that kind of deep hurt and loss.
We have hard issues to solve as a nation because we have heart issues to solve. The federal government will never be able to solve heart issues like our families and communities can. But in moments of fear and desperation, some look to Washington, D.C., and say, “Do something,” when they should instead ask, “How can I make a difference in my home and in my community?” As Mother Teresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
We have three safety nets in America: families, nonprofits, then government. No one should think government is good at raising children and equipping people for life. Government should make sure the lights are on, keep the roads through our states drivable, ensure a common currency, provide national defense, and other specific things. Government cannot replace families. It cannot determine the values taught in school, the meaning of sex, and the spiritual orthodoxy of our culture. But inevitably when there is more poverty, more crime, and more drug use, it seems people immediately look to government to solve the problems of our society. Our cultural challenges require mentoring, role models, and loving discipline. There is no vote in Washington or federal program that can replace an engaged mom and dad.
When a disaster strikes, families in Oklahoma get to work cleaning up with our neighbors — staying until the job is done, sometimes for months. In 1995, we earned the moniker, “Oklahoma Standard,” after the way families came together during the horrific Oklahoma City bombing recovery. During our natural disasters, we have noticed that government will step in eventually, but the first people on the scene are families and neighbors. Strong families and a committed faith community make all the difference when the trial comes.
People of faith are challenged in Scripture to honor their father and mother, train up their children, and as the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy, “provide for their family.” When our families struggle, we should not look for government to “fix them.” That is our responsibility as families. Children struggle with all kinds of temptations. Marriages face real crisis moments, and older parents need our love and care. Those needs are best met by families, especially families of faith, not government.
Our families need us, and we need them.
What will make a difference for our nation’s future? Redeeming the brokenness in families, starting with your own. People who want our nation to “get along” better, but can’t get along with their own family, have missed the point. If family members are at odds with each other, our nation will be at odds with each other. It’s not that we all have to agree, but we should at least strive to practically love our extended family and set the example for others in our homes.
Donate time or money to family-focused nonprofits in your local community to make sure we empower local families to do what government cannot. Parents must remain in control of the education and upbringing of their children — that is their right, not the government’s. Directly mentor young people, particularly those who don’t have a mom or dad present in their life. Care for our senior adults and be sure they have an opportunity to mentor the next generation on marriage, money management, and how to get through tough times as a family. I have heard it said, “Wisdom is passed down from grandparent to grandchild.” Let’s not lose that wisdom in the hustle of modern life.
We can support pregnancy resource centers for young mothers and adoption and foster services for orphans and stranded children. We can set the example for our kids when we serve meals together at rescue missions or donate new or gently used clothes to individuals and families who need a fresh start. We can work as families to help build homes for the homeless and help bring professional services like haircuts and dental care to the communities that need them. We can watch out for the veterans around us and be sure that even the wounds we can’t see are treated and acknowledged.
We can even invite families of other races to our homes for dinner to demonstrate acceptance, friendship, and racial reconciliation as we continue to form a more perfect union.
Remember: kids want to see you give love and reconcile much more than hear you talk about it.
People want quick solutions that someone else implements to fix our broken culture. Washington, D.C., can’t fix our culture; it just reflects our culture. In fact, Washington, D.C., is a mirror to the nation, more than many in the nation want to admit.
The turnaround will happen when we stop believing a program from D.C. will solve the problem and we instead get busy doing our part to heal our land.
It can seem overwhelming, but good people cannot grow weary in doing good. Thankfully, Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:9 that, “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Let’s not give up on our foundation: our families.
James Lankford represents Oklahoma in the United States Senate.