How, What is a Family Compassion Focus?
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Our 2017 Family Compassion Focus

I finished 2016 bone weary.

After several weeks of intentionally wringing joy, welcome, service, compassion, and celebration out of our days I was exhausted. We hosted 4 big parties, 7 family members for 8 days, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve. We deepened a lot of relationships and reignited our vision as a family. We laughed, vacuumed, and ate a lot. It was totally worth it. On the way to school the morning after we hosted 18 people from my husband’s work team for dinner, my kid prayed, “Thank you, God, that we could have a party in our house last night. Thank you that everyone seemed happy and had fun. Thank you that we are getting back to normal. I like it. Amen.

Amen. I liked it, too. But I could not imagine summoning the meal prep, parenting expertise, negotiating tactics, spiritual soft-heartedness, and joy necessary for one more day. 2017 loomed large and daunting.

This is our 7th year choosing a Family Compassion Focus. It’s become our tradition, our habit, our liturgy of the New Year. Thankfully the kids seemed more into it than ever. No one complained or made fun of it. Greta wanted to plan the meal. Caleb wanted to plan the cake. Zoë wanted to make sure we had markers for Word of the Year. Their enthusiasm lured me back in.

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After Christmas we put 3 pieces of paper on the fridge. Greta wrote in her flowing, fledgling cursive:

  • What makes you sad?
  • What do you love to do?
  • What part of the world intrigues you?

Please note that my 12 year son said AnFARTica intrigued him. He totally cracked himself up with this. His own gas is totally hilarious to him.

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The days between Christmas and New Years I asked everyone to put at least 2 things on each piece of paper. They didn’t have to hurry and do it that second, but it had to be done before New Year’s Eve. It’s interesting how this changes the tone in the kitchen. There are still fights, rolled eyes, and spilled cereal, but there are also deep questions and big ideas floating around.

I was too tired to make a big production for our big New Year’s Day dinner, which I normally love to do. So I declared we would be eating some of the 6 pounds of homemade carnitas we had left over from the New Years Eve party. Greta (and Chris) made homemade guacamole and cut out star chips from tortillas.

We gathered around the table and started our time with The Questions. I change 2/5 of them every year. Even though the kids get too loud, and talk over each other, and I still always try to edit and shape their answers, we somehow grow in trust and creativity as a family. I love it how we all get more into it each year.

I write the questions in advance and put everyone’s initials under the questions. I fill them in as people answer. The kids get a big kick out of re-visiting the answers later in the year. Here were our 1/1/17 questions:

  1. Which One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World were you like in 2016?
  2. What’s the Favorite Place you visited in 2016?
  3. Who is the Favorite New Person you met in 2016?
  4. What’s your Favorite Book of 2016?
  5. What’s 1 New Thing you Learned in 2016?
  6. What 1 Moment would you like to repeat in 2016?
  7. What 1 Moment would you like to erase from 2016?
  8. What helped you get through your hardest day of 2016?
  9. Where do you want to go in Georgia in 2017?
  10. What food do you want to try in 2017?
  11. What book character do you want to be like in 2017?
  12. What is your Word of the Year for 2017?

Highlights: Chris said he’s like the Northern Lights “because I’m hard to pin down.” Greta said her her favorite person was Mrs. Redahan, her 3rd grade teacher. Caleb’s favorite book was something he pulled off his dad’s airplane reading shelf called Off Armageddon Reef (I have to say it sounds LAME). Zoë learned that “music is a lot better than I thought it was” (thanks Twenty One Pilots and Hamilton). Let the record show that one of my children said the thing that helped them on their worst day was “Mama.” And even though Greta tried pizza for the first time in 2016 and HATED it, she wants to try shrimp in 2017.

We cleared the dinner dishes and got out the New Year’s birthday cake. Caleb wanted the cake to say “COME AT ME, BRO” but I was afraid to invite a fight, as depleted as I felt. Greta suggested we all try to slay our dragons. This was our 2017 Cake:

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SLAY YOUR DRAGONS IN 2017

We sang happy birthday to the year, passed out cake and the rest of the homemade candy cane ice-cream my dad made when he was visiting. Then we dove in to the Family Compassion Focus discussion.

It must be hard being the children of an MBA Dad and former Change Management consultant mom. We had the fridge questions taped on the china cabinet, markers in the middle of the table, pens and index cards on hand, and 2 people co-facilitating the discussion. Let’s get to work, people.

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Everyone shared what made them sad, what they loved to do, and what part of the world intrigued them. We asked probing questions. We insisted there were no wrong answers. We tried to listen without interrupting. Kids jumped up and added more ideas and arrows (Caleb added Farting to the “what do you love to do” list, of course). We talked about the outlier responses and the commonalities. We looked for themes (besides flatulence).

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Chris and I noticed something felt different this year. We all still love to do very different things (baking, running, snuggling/”sleep hugging”, talking). We are intrigued by people from all over the world (India, Japan, Southeastern US). But we didn’t have a lot of new ideas. Chris wondered aloud if that might be because we didn’t feel like we were quite done with what we started in 2016. We agreed that it did seem that way.

We are all still saddened by:

  • loneliness, feeling alone
  • war
  • fighting
  • bullies
  • refugees

We loved working with Refuge Coffee Co. and Habitat for Humanity in 2016. We were all sad about that being over. Chris suggested we go for a broader focus in 2017. [In the past we’ve done Haiti (2010, 2015), Orphans (2012), Clean Water (2013), Homelessness (2014), and Georgia (2016).] For our 7th year he suggested CREATE REFUGE be our actual compassion focus.

Everyone was ready to go with that right there, but Daddy made us all vote for our top 3. One index card had the same thing written 3 times, another included farting. In the end

CREATE REFUGE won as our official 2017 FAMILY COMPASSION FOCUS.

The five of us will all lead five different ways of living that out this year. Greta and I want to keep learning and growing with Refuge Coffee Co. Greta also wants to help abused animals. Caleb wants to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity with Chris. We all want to learn how to create refuge for our little neighborhood and for each other (“like, maybe you could stop yelling, mom?”).

We are excited. In fact, Greta and I went down to Refuge Coffee Co. yesterday because she wanted to tell Kitti Murray (the founder of Refuge and G’s BFF/crush) in person that “we were going to keep creating refuge in 2017.” 

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This is what Greta looked like when she told Kitti we wanted to keep focusing on Creating Refuge in 2017. They are holding hands. Kitti said, “I’m so glad you’re not done with us.” 🙂

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Team Fritz has totally run with Refuge Coffee’s hashtag #CREATEREFUGE.

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Kitti and G at Refuge Coffee Co. in Clarkson, GA, 1/3/17.

Okay, so when you read this are you like, “Omigosh! That seems like so much work! We could never do that! I don’t want to do that. Good luck Fritzes, but I’m out!”

If so, I understand.

I’m tired a lot (so much that I got a lot of medical testing done at the end of 2016), but don’t let that fool you. It’s so worth it. Please consider trying something like this in your home. You and your roommate/husband/parents/kid could put post-its on the bathroom mirror, or print out this free download (Family Compassion Fridge Worksheets mops) to get a conversation going. You could chat about it in the car or at breakfast. You don’t have to do a grand meal and 2 hour conversation, that’s just what ours became this year with older kids and our 7th time doing this. This is definitely a time to remember my perfectionism-busting mantra:

Better a little bit, and late, than nothing, never. 

I hope you’ll try your own version of this and let me know how it goes. If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments below.

More resources and background for you:

Coming Soon:

  • Team Fritz 2017 Words of the Year
  • 2016 Lessons Learned in Compassion

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You are loved.


©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2017.

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