The rapid pace of our increasingly information based world continues to challenge society’s ability to build and sustain healthy and viable communities. In both my personal and professional life, I strive to build and enhance many communities, including in my neighborhood, as I wrote about previously. Healthy neighborhoods, of course, start with healthy and supportive families. From an institutional basis, there are great programs designed to support healthy families including Healthy Families America
a program of PCA America, strives to provide all expectant and new parents with the opportunity to receive the education and support they need at the time their baby is born.
Prevent Child Abuse America, founded in 1972 in Chicago, works to ensure the healthy development of children nationwide. The organization promotes that vision through a network of chapters in 50 states and nearl 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites in 39 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Commonwealth of the Marianas, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Canada. A major organizational focus is to advocate for the existence of a national policy framework and strategy for children and families while promoting evidence-based practices that prevent abuse and neglect from ever occurring.
Of course, there are many other wonderful public and private programs that strive to support and nurture healthy families. Indeed, even the World Bank recognizes that healthy children lead to healthy economies. But these programs cannot replace the individual effort needed to sustain healthy families.
My in-laws, Sandy and Gloria Spitzer, have gone to great lengths to keep their far flung family connected with each other. While they remain based in their hometown of St. Louis, their children are spread from coast to coast in 4 cities, Boston, Madison, St. Louis and Irvine, California. Their 8 grandchildren, most of whom are adults now, are similarly spread out, adding an additional state, New York, into the mix. They are also blessed with a great grandchild in California. When they grew up, all of their siblings and first cousins remained in St. Louis, so although it took some effort to convene family gatherings, it was not as difficult as it is in today’s world.
To their credit, they formed a Family Foundation, which has two purposes. First, they have set aside sufficient funds for the entire family (all 4 generations) to gather on an annual basis. This year, we gathered had a lovely gathering that allowed us to celebrate the New Year together, including a rousing game of canasta.
The second purpose of the Foundation is to make charitable gifts to maintain my in-laws’ long standing dedication to tzedakah (Hebrew for charity, but literally: “righteousness” or “justice”). In order to insure family unity and collaboration after my in-laws pass away, their family foundation will pass onto their 4 children, who will be required to hold a family meeting once a year to determine which donations the Foundation will make. Thus, my in-laws have wisely used estate planning both to keep their family together, and to continue their family’s righteous charity through tzedakah.
I am truly blessed to be a welcome part of my wife’s family for over 31 years. I look forward to many more years of building community with the Spitzer family.