One of the aspects that I enjoy most about my job placing exchange students is meeting with potential host families in their homes. I inspect their homes to make sure they are clean and suitable and then sit down with them to ask them a variety of questions regarding their finances, the stability of their home life, and their motivations for hosting a student. It's not only an interesting process it's also great to have reaffirmed again and again that most families are good families that are trying to do right by their families regardless of their religious affiliation.
A few weeks ago, I met with a single mom that had hosted a student through another organization when she was still married and she was now ready and wanting to host again through our company. As I started the interview process, she immediately started telling me about her husband and the dissolution of their marriage. They had been together for 15 years, married for 13, and have three boys together ages 8, 5, and 3. She told me all about their wedding and vows, how they went through pre-marital counseling as required by the Catholic Church, about how her husband had said that there was not one single thing that would ever justify divorce, and about how her current home had been their dream together. Then she told me that about nine months previous he had decided that he didn't want to be married anymore and he didn't want the burden of responsibility. She said she was devastated. I asked how she was coping and her eyes welled up and said, "Well, it was only nine months ago so it's still pretty raw. It's especially hard on my oldest son who asks every day if he can see his dad or asks if dad is coming over." She then went on to explain that one of the reasons she wanted to host another exchange student was so that her oldest son could have an older male to look up to in the home. So sad. I met the little boy and he seemed downcast and sad. I found out a little later in the conversation that her husband had been engaging in extramarital affairs and that he was now living with one of his mistresses. She seemed to think that he might come to his senses one day and I asked her if she would take him back if he wanted to come home. She replied, "I think I would. I just want us to be a family again. I want my boys to be happy again. I think he just got stressed out and couldn't deal with the birth of our third child. You know, divorce is one of the three most selfish things a person can do in this life--divorce, abortion, and suicide." I would have to agree. Now, in writing this, I am aware that I only heard one side of the story. Maybe she was a shrew of a wife. But the thing is, she didn't seem like a shrew. She seemed like a very sweet woman who had devoted her life to God and her family. And as I walked away from her home all I wanted to do was call her husband and punch him in the face and some how make him understand all of the heartache he had caused his wife and his innocent children. I wanted to ask him if he really understood the repercussions of his choices and if he knew that his boys would have trust and commitment issues for a long time because their hero destroyed their family and broke their hearts.
Which leads me to the above book. I recently finished reading The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him by Rabbi Boteach. It's an insightful read and his familial and religious morals run parallel to my own. His ultimate goal is to save families. While reading it, I couldn't help but think of the father and husband from my story. I also thought about my husband and father and how thankful I am for the gospel and particularly, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which teaches us the sacred distinction and importance of the roles of mothers and fathers. We live in a world that teaches us that the only thing that makes us valuable is how much money and fame we have. I'm grateful for the gospel which keeps us grounded and is a consistent reminder for us that our real value and worth is determined by our loving relationships (including our relationship with God) and our contributions to others. I'm grateful every day for a loving husband who fights the good fight every single day; who is a loving father-- the kind of father that sacrifices is own birthday to take his five year old son on his first Fathers and Sons Campout. He is James' hero. He's a hero to each member of our family. Not only because he works really, really hard but because even at the end of the day, when he's physically spent and mentally drained, he still musters up enough energy to play with the kids for a while or fix something around the house that needs repaired or help out with the baby. Many times I will look out the window to see James following right behind Adam and mimicking his every move. He wants to be just like his dad, a man, which echoes Lehi's counsel "Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men..."