house with wood walkway leading up to it at night


We put the building blocks of life together in the home. There, we carefully initiate the process of establishing our identity, shaping our self-esteem, building our belief system, exploring our expectancies, and learning how to behave in various situations. Parents portray through words and modeling aspects of the common culture they hope the child internalizes.

America’s development as a multicultural nation accepts the reality that this parental modeling will not be shaped identically in each household. Three institutions of society work to create commonality: the public school with its emphasis on “appropriate” conduct, the church that brings together belief and behavior, and the electronic news media with its comments on events transpiring within the local community.

Families tend to raise their children almost exactly the way their parents raised them. Evident love enriched the building blocks; regular physical punishment or humiliation diminished both the child and the parent. Both relationship styles become enmeshed within memories for future generations.

I suspect that no home can be labeled perfect, but the home in which my brother and I lived must have been close. My Salvation Army officer parents had lost a son when he was 18 months old. Protecting children seemed uppermost in their minds. With World War II winding down, my father left officership and we returned to Los Angeles where I have lived the past 70 or so years and attended the same corps even though it has had five different names.

Most often, a couple builds a home. Usually, it involves husband and wife. That’s the case with my parents, and that’s the case with me. I found Diane at Camp Elephant Rock in Colorado when she attended music camp. I was the camp’s program director and we needed staff, so I talked Andy Telfer into hiring her for the summer. The romance took off and continues today. Six children have blessed our marriage and they have delivered 15 grandchildren. Now the first great-grandchild has taken us by storm.  

I believe our home took on my mother’s consistency, guidance and love, and my father’s appropriate freedom, courage and love. Our home became vacant as our children married and built their own homes, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty. Most of them live close and visit us every day. They are wonderful, not perfect, people.

When they visit they don’t find perfection, or judgmentalism, or uses of power, or meaninglessness, or isolation, or unwillingness, or irresponsibility, or disrespect, or unlove.

When they visit they find the same smells, the same level of tidiness, the same expression of love and respect, the same joys, the same opportunities to explore decisions, the same spirit, and, foremost, a never ending love.

It’s home.

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Bob Docter

Bob Docter is the founding editor of The Salvation Army New Frontier Publications. He received a doctorate degree in psychology from the University of Southern California, and is a professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge, where he has taught for more than 50 years. He served as a member and President of the Los Angeles Board of Education in the 1970s, during the integration of schools. An Order of the Founder recipient, Docter is revered in The Salvation Army.