There is nothing in the world that will make you appreciate your own family, and your own life, like seeing those from someone else's point of view.
Our son's friend is coming to visit. He's a nice kid and they've been friends since they were little. He has always enjoyed spending time with us; he is very polite, appreciates everything, and makes me sound like the best cook ever to walk the earth.
This nice boy has a home life that is a disaster. No details are necessary, but I can see why he likes it so much to spend time with us. We are a nice, solid family. He isn't torn between one parent's utter apathy and the other parent's neurotic need to control. At our home, he is treated like our own children: expected to be polite, to get dirty, to eat, to laugh, to clean up after himself somewhat, be nice to the animals and help if the opportunity arises.
I used to wonder if my children realize how fortunate they are, in so many ways. They have two parents (and they both have the same two parents), who are still married and still like eachother and them, too. They get to go to bed each night in a warm bed, in a nice house, with a full tummy and no fear. Mom and Dad will still be there when they wake up, and they will even be sober.
Their parents don't always agree, but they seldom fight, and never with violence. Our children had clean clothes to wear, a school to go to, friends to hang out with and places to go. They have an older generation of relatives to show them there are two kinds of wisdom: their parent's working-for-a-living kind, and a mellower, more patient, more amused older kind of wisdom. Those are both very valuable to who those children will become in their lives.
My children grew up in a way that taught them many important lessons. They know about gardens, livestock, pets, chores, work, building, cars, prayers, birth and death and life and love. Being young, the truth of those lessons will change some with the passing years. What they learned about prayers is one thing today. The same lesson will have new meaning in years to come.
I used to wonder if they really knew. Now, our older son is grown and gone. He knows. He is in a barracks with a bunch of guys who did not have the same blessings, and who did not learn the same lessons. He even told me that he deeply appreciated the gift we gave him: the tools he needed to step into life, ready and able to be a man.
Our younger son's friend, having never enjoyed those things except as a guest in our home, will have to make the gift for himself. His parents don't have it themselves and so, are unable to pass it on. Will seeing the possibility be enough? Will he make for himself the tools he needs to step into life, ready and able to be a man?