Family Roll Call

As I have mentioned before, groups don’t fail nearly as often as an isolated individual. And a strong family at its broadest definition is the best defense against hardship and struggle. So, it’s time you got reconnected and reacquainted with your extended family. Every family has the “goof off”, everyone has at least one member who’s a pack rat, and there is always one person in the family who can hang a spoon from their nose at weddings (okay, maybe that’s just my family). The point is, it’s time to find out who you are and who your brothers and sisters might be.

As we’re broadening our families, it’s time to evaluate our roles to help us provide for others and, in turn, get help from those around us. After all, it’s not easy to know IF you can help if you don’t know HOW you can help. When I was in high school, we all had to take a test that asked questions about who we were and what we liked to do. It was sort of a personal inventory of preferences that, once completed, was supposed to help us understand our strengths and weaknesses, and as such, help us pick a potential career path. We all have certain skills, things we can do better than most. For instance, I excel at being lazy. I can look at any situation or be confronted with any task and find the method which requires the absolute least amount of actual work (okay, maybe now’s not the best time for THAT particular skill set).

Anyway, knowing our own strengths will best help us understand how we can benefit the family, but also, knowing the strengths of those around us is the quickest way to guarantee that the team can truly thrive. And for that, it’s time not only for a self-evaluation but also for a little collective audit of resources. The best teams find ways to let the players get the most from their individual talents in support of the group. Strong families can do the same thing.

I don’t know the first thing about fixing cars, but I have a couple of close friends who do, so, in my family, at least for minor automotive stuff, we’re covered. Likewise, I’m good with a hammer and nails, so if someone in my family needs work done on their house, I know I’m one of the first ones they’ll call. This is the key. If you’re willing to donate a weekend, or an afternoon once in a while helping a family member with something that you do well, then you’ll find that they’ll usually be just as willing to reciprocate.

When you’re single, just knowing 911 might suffice. When you have kids, you usually jot down additional numbers for the schools, the doctor's office, and maybe even the poison control hotline. Well, in this time of recession, here’re some more names and numbers you might need to know (in no particular order)…

CARPENTER : It will always be a blessing to have at least one member of your new, extended family that you know is good at construction. If the rain comes through your roof, if the wind blows out a window, or if the stairs to your front porch just don’t cut the mustard, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars if your first call is to a trusted friend.

ELECTRICIAN : There are certain things in life that just shouldn’t be done by amateurs. And handling electricity is one of them. Having a close friend who can take the mystery out of simple wiring problems can mean the difference between a ten cent part and a whole new lamp.

PLUMBER : Like electrical work, plumbing is something that can SEEM fixed one minute but create even bigger problems if not done right. And there’s no substitute for experience. A good plumber will be able to show you how it’s done without actually having to do the work for you.

MECHANIC : Do you know someone who just seems to know how things work? Well if not, find one. Even if they’re not a specialist in the area of immediate need, to be a good mechanic, you must have great diagnostic instinct, and more often than not, your friend will at least be able to narrow down the possible problems.

DOCTOR/NURSE : Okay, not everyone will have a friend or family member that went to medical school. But I guarantee you, if you ask around, you’ll find someone who, at the very least, paid more attention than you did in health class, or possibly someone who shares a similar medical condition. Reach out to these people to share experiences and in turn you will learn more about your own situation.

LAWYER : Although you might never find yourself in a court of law, never underestimate the ways a good legal mind can help your personal circumstances. Like it or not, our society is run by people and systems that sometimes only a lawyer can comprehend. Just knowing one can be like having an inside man on the job.

ACCOUNTANT : Do you do your own taxes? If so, then great, how about helping out the millions of us who couldn’t tell a tax shelter from a hole in the wall? The biggest arguments in any household usually revolve around money, so find someone who’s good with it and let them help you in any way they can.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. You would do well to add as many individual skill sets as you can find. I can think of a lot of benefits of having at least one friend who is a good cook, a seamstress, or someone who’s good with computers. The more we utilize the strengths of our friendships the less possibility there is to fall victim to any single weakness.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 5, Issue 4, Posted 6:24 AM, 02.28.2009