I hate it when something I love gets hijacked and taken hostage for political reasons.

I love language and in this (and every) political season, it seems language loses it’s complex and interesting meaning and gets simplified for political gain. I want to rescue a phrase that I think has been hijacked. The phrase is “traditional family values.”

Now I come from a family that might be categorized as traditional (although I always thought everyone else’s families were more normal).  Mother, father and five children. We lived in a small town and played little league and the piano. We went to church, sometimes 2 or 3 times on Sunday and again on Wednesday.

And these are the traditional family values I learned: kindness; love; sharing; generosity; forgiveness; welcoming strangers; keeping promises; conserving resources; recycling clothes, paper and anything else that could be used till it unraveled; telling the truth; doing justice; showing mercy; being humble; making commitments; loving in sickness and health; caring for orphans and widows; equal opportunity; open mindedness.

And I know people who are in families that some in the political world would not call traditional (although statistics show that there are more of these kinds of families now than the kind I grew up in). These are families with a single parent; with two fathers; with two mothers; no parents; children raised in extended families with aunts and uncles; grandparents raising grandchildren; one biological parent and one step-parent; adopted parents and children, etc. And the values I learned are being taught in these families. These social groupings are the laboratories where we learn how to live with others and how to create complex and caring societies.

So, I want the phrase back. In my family, the values I learned create a compassionate and merciful society for all. They help form a generous place of grace and equality.  I want these values in the society for my children and grandchildren—and for your children and grandchildren (whoever you are and however you structure your family.)