People talk a lot about family values. But what does that really mean?
A story Monday in The Lima News about the “Miller family of Putnam County” goes a long way in answering that question.
The Millers are a family of 12 — all over the age of 70 and all still alive — who grew up on a farm near Ottoville. The seven girls and five boys were the children of Stephan and Mary Miller. There’s was a house filled with laughter; a home where hard work was something you just did; a house where everyone knew they were loved; and a dwelling where they practiced their faith in God.
Like many families going through the Depression, they were lacking in money, but they didn’t expect handouts.
“Our parents left us the greatest gift: They taught us how to work and how to enjoy the work we did,” said Donald “Doc” Miller.
In school, one grade mattered more than others — “conduct.” If you brought home anything less than “A,” there would be trouble. Stephan and Mary Miller were understanding if their children struggled in math or English, as long as they were trying. But being disrespectful to teachers or fellow classmates — there was no excuse for that. It simply wasn’t tolerated.
The children in turn learned from the examples set by their parents.
Dolly Mesker talked about seeing her mother “at the sewing machine day in and day out.”
Donna Schlagbaum, said her mother once told her “she had 25 cents and wondered what she could do to feed her 12 kids — what would be the most nutritious. She ended up fixing oatmeal.
“We didn’t have much, but we had family, food and fun, and that’s all we ever needed,” Donna said.
Family values don’t get any better than that.
Today, politicians like to talk about family values. We don’t fault them for that. Reminding people about a strong work ethic and treating each other with respect is not a bad thing. However, where the politicians cross the line is trying to argue that one political party has family values while the other doesn’t. The truth is, you cannot legislate family values. It’s a support system that is taught by example, where parents and adults teach children what is right and what is wrong and people take responsibility.
The story in Monday’s newspaper about the Miller family was a wonderful reminder about the importance of parenting, and how people can endure through the most difficult hardships.