Friday, January 11, 2008

What is Valuable?

I'm wondering about the word values?

With all the political rhetoric about Family Values, American Values, the Values Candidate, I decided to look it up.

Values: ideals or principles of a given group or society. The worth, importance or usefulness placed on an ideal.

Do we all place the same importance on particular values? I assume we all have different priorities. For instance:

Education: We had some neighbors from Scotland several years ago. They had lived in London, India, and Hong Kong for his job, before being transferred to the United States. Their two children attended boarding school. An eleven-year-old daughter was in Switzerland, and the mother told me tearfully that she had just sent her six-year-old son to Scotland. The kids came home for Christmas and Easter. I asked my friend how she could bear to have them so far away, and she explained how important it was for her kids to have a good education. It was worth any sacrifice, she said emotionally.

To me education is an important value. Not important enough to send my children away, and let someone else instill their values, however. It's lower on my list than Strong Family, but it was a top priority for her.

Work Ethic: A couple we know could afford to live anywhere. They bought ten acres of land miles from other homes and planted a one acre garden (with no prior experience) because they wanted their kids to learn to work. Another extremely well-to-do family bought a ranch in a tiny community and raised sheep. The mother home-schools her kids until they are high school age. They shear the sheep themselves and have actually learned to card it, and weave it into cloth! The children are mature, well educated, talented and hard working, and the oldest children clepped out of classes and started college at sixteen.

Developing a work ethic is very high on my list of values. It isn't high enough to sacrifice my own comforts to instill it in my kids. Maybe that's selfish. (Sorry we never took you off the grid, guys!)

Opportunities: There was a 13-year-old girl on our street who played the piano brilliantly. Her parents took her out of school so she could study music for eight hours a day with very prestigious and expensive instructors. She studied school subjects independently, but was monitored by her teachers, and took the exams, so she moved along with her classmates. (She had several brothers and sisters who were all in school.) The family sacrificed greatly for the individual.

This is a tough one for me. As a mother, I wanted to let each child have opportunities to reach their highest potential. But ultimately my priority was that the individual sacrificed for the family. This strengthened our family, but there might be some resentment harbored by the individuals. I don't know.

I'm prioritizing and defining my Family Values here, mostly to see for myself what I find valuable.
  1. Faith in God (includes attending church, personal devotion, service to others)
  2. Strong marriage
  3. Strengthen immediate family (unity, individuals, create memories, build self esteem)
  4. Experience (travel, cultural, personal)
  5. Work
  6. Education (I think informal, self-directed education is just as valuable as the formal kind. Degrees and diplomas are meaningless to me. It's the desire, effort, knowledge and application that matters.)
  7. Extended family relationships
  8. Career
  9. Money
  10. Social life
My priorities overlap, and change. As my kids have grown up their own value systems take precedence, and they might bump into mine. When I plan a party for my immediate family, it includes kids and grandkids who have me in the extended family category. That takes some maneuvering. A strong marriage might be challenged by career or money goals, but it would be equally challenged by lack of career or money goals. A list of values is always threatened by real life.

What are the national Family Values? I'd list Marriage, Raising Kids Responsibly, Educational Opportunities, Employment, Health Care Availability, and Public Safety. Is that what you think politicians are referring to?

"There are so many people who can figure costs, and so few who can measure values."

What do you consider valuable? What do you want, and what do you want future generations to have?


Stie: My Favorite Things said...

We have valued education so much that in some areas we've lived, we've chosen to live in more expensive cities that had better schools. Even if it meant owning a smaller home, it was worth it.

Nothing is more important than our own little family unit though. We sacrifice full schedules, lots of playdates, and some extracurricular activities to make sure we have time to be with each other.

gramakas said...

Growing up our main family value was always "first we work, then we play". I am very grateful for the strong work ethic that was instilled in me by my parents. It is something that was vitally important for me to instil in my own children. I think a good work ethic breeds other values or maybe just character traits like honesty, dependability, self-confidence, responsiblity to just mention a few. The thing I struggle with is expecting other people to work as hard as I believe in working and often that expectation is not met.