“Why is lettuce in our prayer?” (… let us thank Him for our food) asked our then 4-year-old before digging into his favorite breakfast of “scream cheese and bagos.” When the kids were young we started daily family breakfasts because it was the one time we were all together when the house was reasonably quiet. The early struggles (getting out of bed at 7:30 on summer mornings was not fun for our preteen daughter) subsided, and then there was disappointment on the rare morning we didn’t eat together.
With summer and family reunion season approaching, we’re reminded that rituals, customs, and family traditions add a rich texture to life. They restore balance in a society pushing us toward imbalance.
In his classic book From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives author Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and Maybe, Maybe Not) says rituals “…bring structure and meaning to daily life, enriching who we are collectively and individually.” He goes on to write “Structure gives us a sense of security. And that sense of security is the ground of meaning.”
But can, and should, health promoters try to help clients build these elements into their lives? Yes, on both counts.
The high stress rates, reports of job burnout, and growing depression in our society are due in part to imbalance, disconnectedness, and disintegrating structure. Without rituals, customs, and traditions, our sense of security is shaken and life’s meaning is lessened. And until we get them back there’s little hope of successful behavior change or risk reduction.
Review Your Rituals
If you’re struggling with stress, security, or meaning, examine the traditions and customs you keep before trying to help participants with theirs. You wouldn’t be the first health promoter who has lost balance trying to save everyone else’s life.
Once you’re heading in the right direction, you can encourage others to see the importance of rituals. Some ideas: