What are traditions? Webster says it is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)”. What if we make our customary thoughts, actions and behaviors those that strengthen family and other relationships?

Each week, in this spot, you’ll find a tradition to implement that will sweeten family life. Some will work for you; some may not. Some will be daily habits, some tied to particular holidays or times of year. They can be done in any order. So, if you’re joining us on week #34, start then or pick any one or two suggestions to start with. The important thing is heading in a direction toward a happier family. No matter how happy families are, they can add new memories!

So, this week’s tradition is important words—I love you. Say it first thing when you see your loved one in the morning, when one or both of you leave the house headed in different directions for a while, and before hanging up the phone.

There is a little background—a sad story—to this tradition. When I was a teenager in rural Illinois, a man in our congregation was killed. He was a police officer killed in the line of duty (such funerals are impressive events, btw, as fellow officers come from miles away to pay tribute to their fallen comrade). Some felons had escaped from a prison in Chicago and a few hours south of there, the police gave chase. Shots were fired and a young wife and several small children heard the news no one should have to hear. I later learned that the young couple had quarreled that morning—what a heavy burden for that young widow to carry! That was the day I resolved to always have the last words my family members heard leaving the house each day or hanging up the phone be “I love you.”

We all hear the news too often of senseless killing, heartbreaking accidents and other unplanned events. Be prepared by having things in order in our relationships. We just never know when we won’t have a chance to say it again—or if we can make things right after anger. So, let’s start with the sweetest words. Tell them—first thing in the morning and each time you say goodbye–“I love you.”

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