Monday, March 1, 2010

Everyone Wants to Belong, Eh?

The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat. That about sums up the whole Olympic experience. I thoroughly enjoy watching the Olympics, even though I've been tired for the whole month of February, it seems, from staying up to watch "just a little more". I love to watch it all--the sporting events, the behind-the-scenes stories, the tales of adversity and come-backs from injury. But it is the reports the anchors do during the "down-times" that I so anticipate. You know, the stories they tell about the hosting country to fill up time until the next event where the US has a chance at a medal? I'm saddened to see another Games come to an end.

One report I heard last week told the story of the Canadian expression "eh". They told about how far it could be traced back, what it can mean, the proper way to inflect when you used it. It is the way native Canadians recognize each other the world over. No other country uses it and they can tell in just a few minutes of conversation if they are talking to a fellow Canuck. The reporter went on to say that when Americans were pouring into Canada to avoid the Vietnam War, border guards would engage a suspicious young man in conversation. They could tell within fifteen minutes whether he was a native Canadian or a draft dodger by his use--or omission--of the phrase "eh" at the end of his sentences. If he didn't use it, they would send him right back to the US, eh?

Did you know there is a similar story in the Bible? In the book of Judges, the Gileads fought against the Ephraimites. The Ephramites were conquered and Gilead took control of the fords leading over the Jordan River back to Ephraim. The Ephraimites would attempt to sneak their way across and when the guards didn't recognize them as fellow tribesmen, they would give them a little quiz.

"Are you an Ephraimite?" they would ask.


"Well then say 'Shibboleth'," the guards would command.

"Sh...Sh....Sibboleth?" the stuttering Ephraimite would mispronounce.

"Off with his head!"

The Gileads knew they weren't who they said they were because they couldn't say the "magic word". It would be comical except for the fact that 42,000 Ephraimites were killed because of a little 'h'. Now that's harsh, eh?
Last week we talked about the language in our homes. I challenged you to look at the type of language legacy you are leaving. But today I want to focus on the positive side of this. Every family has codes, pet names, and "inside jokes" that make them unique. This is something I've learned: kids thrive and find security in traditions.

Does your family have nicknames for each other? (We are a family of nicknames. Even the animals have them.) Do you have things your kids couldn't pronounce when they were younger that now even though everyone could say it, they still use the funny word? (My kids still call chicken pot pie "Chicken Putt-Putt Pie and chicken enchiladas "Chit-chin Itchy-la-las".) Do you have traditions that you keep for holidays, birthdays, or for special days? (Sundays are always popcorn, cheese, and grapes for dinner and they know we always have finger foods the night we put up the Christmas tree.)

Kids find security in knowing what to expect. They have a sense of belonging when traditions are implemented. They rejoice in being part of something bigger than themselves. They identify with their family and its unique place in this world. It helps them remember where they are from and look forward to knowing, at least in part, what the future holds.

What traditions or special things does your family do? What is something you've always wanted to do, but haven't yet? Why don't you commit to trying it today, this month, or in 2010?

See you on Wednesday when I tell you about what I learned from a Caress-eating canine.

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