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“Other things, may change us, but we start and end with the family” – Anthony Brandt

Christopher Mbogo and his family in his younger years.

For me, family are those who will be beside me no matter what happens. Not only when I’m up and strong but also when I’m weak and broken. Family are the sets of arms I can run to with news of joy but also in sorrow.

I grew up in a middle class Catholic family, with both parents and me in the middle of two sisters. My father taught me to always look people in the eye when I talk to them, always hold my head high and never believe that I’m inferior to anyone. This confidence allowed me to believe in myself, in my abilities and potential, a part of me I cherish to date. My mother taught me to protect and love my sisters fiercely-a feat that often got me in trouble through primary school, and the power of being firm but kind in equal measure. I have fought with my sisters like nobody else, but they know me better than anyone.

My family’s culture involves sharing: sharing troubles of the day, or about worries, concerns, dreams and aspirations. Family is to me a support system.

My parents didn’t have the typical ‘success’ agenda for me and my sisters. They just wanted us to become ourselves and, more so, discover our life’s purpose. They embraced freedom and raised us accordingly with stern and strict correction when we got too far off track, but for the most part, they left us to find ourselves. Sometimes, that meant letting me do things they knew might hurt me — but somehow hoped that I’d learn. It’s one of the hard mysteries of being a parent I suppose: knowing where that line is, between preventing your kids from getting hurt, and allowing them to learn by experience.

Recently, my 5-year-old niece caught me in a lie – saying to a friend that I’d left the house when I was actually heading to shower- and I was at pains trying to excuse myself. So it got me thinking about the huge responsibility of parenthood, especially since I hope to be a parent one day.

St. Josemaria often exclaimed that the family is the seed of society, and looking round, the 21st century family is at serious risk with society rotting.

It is not enough to bring children into this world. It isn’t enough to pay fees, ensure they’ve eaten, provide a roof over their heads etc. -deeds often misinterpreted as raising children.  It is sad that teachers and maids –total strangers- are the people who are tasked with raising children nowadays. Why? Because parents are too busy, and after all, they can afford to pay. But this cheapens the true value and meaning of parenthood.

As St. Josemaria taught, what children look for most in parents is a proof of the validity of values.  I was raised in the kind of home where there was always an extra seat at the dinner table for ‘strays’ and I never could quite understand why I had to give up my usual portion for strangers, (I was a fat kid) or why I had to sit in the boot of my dad’s car just so that he could –as has been his habit since time immemorial- give lifts to watchmen, nannies, and other strangers. I’ve grown up watching my parents open our doors to people of all backgrounds and making us understand kindness and charity by seeing them live what they preach.

Family is the greatest gift I have received, because from it I’ve got values that bleed into everything I do. That to me is the greatest value of family.

A happy family is but an earlier heaven – John Bowring

This article was written by Christopher Mbogo who is a student in the Strathmore University Business School

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