Campitellis Practice One of the Four Keys

Caring Conversations. So Can You!

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

"Richard's mom told us, 'God called you to do something special' when we explained to her our adoption plans. Her musing about what was possible for us and what she said was one of the most loving conversations I've ever had," said Shannon Campitelli. Hearing Shannon recall this moment in her life and watching Richard smile in agreement let me know that the Campitellis are a family that know a good deal about having caring conversations with one another and those they love.

Caring conversations are one of the four keys to passing along our faith. In some ways they are at the heart of our faith. Caring conversations are holy moments when we share the intimate places of our hearts, when we really hear and see one another, when we laugh or cry with one another in such a way that we can almost hear Christ laughing and crying with us. Shannon and Richard are intentional about creating such opportunities for themselves and their children.

Like most parents, Richard and Shannon are in love with their two boys and vice versa. I noticed this in many ways the day I visited them at their home. Gregory, the most energetic of the clan, never tired of being tickled by his dad the whole time we spoke. Richard, in his very calm and steady way, was able to play with Gregory and be present to the rest of us as we spoke. Shannon said, "I have never felt as close to God as I did when I held Matthew. This was the child we were supposed to raise." Matthew and Gregory were both born in Korea. Like any adoption ,there were many steps the Campitellis had to make and a caring conversation found its way in all along the way.

Even when the conversations were not terribly long God was there. Shannon explained that in both adoptions when the time came for them to take their child from their foster parent there was a sense of gratefulness. There was a loss and a joy. The foster parents were delighted to see the child going to a loving home and there was a real sense of gratitude for this family who had loved their son for the first few months of his life. Few words were exchanged but a holy moment nonetheless, i.e. a caring conversation.

Matthew and Gregory are not infants any more. Matthew is 8 years-old, and Gregory is 5 years-old. Naturally, they are now adding to the conversation. Matthew is quick to share his thoughts and ideas while playing with his Legos. He is enjoying reading the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis with his family and is delighted to share the connection he has made between Aslan and Jesus. Gregory particularly enjoys a family devotional book called Gotta Have God. Gregory found the book on the table where they eat and showed me the pages with mazes and word games he likes. Toys, props, and tools are always helpful guides when engaging caring conversations. They can be a springboard or means to going deeper with one another.

Shannon and Richard have also intentionally created sacred time when caring conversations can most easily take place. Dinner is always a shared meal. "I know some parents feed the kids first and eat later. Not us," Shannon explained. "At dinner we always ask, 'What's the best thing that happened to you today? What did you learn?'" Such open questions beg for a caring conversation, as they require more than a yes or no answer. They invite each family member to share a piece of what he or she is thinking, feeling, wondering. Richard travels a good deal, so the family is grateful for modern technology that enables Richard to be a part of dinner conversations when he is away. You can imagine how important the weekends are for him and his boys. Bedtime is a nice time as well. It is different, as they are not all gathered at the same time; however, each boy gets one-on-one with a parent. Gregory must enjoy bedtime caring conversation, as he was delighted to introduce me to his bear blanket, his favorite bedtime companion. For Richard and Shannon, the early morning is when they can really talk and engage in a caring conversation as a couple.

At the same time, the Campitellis have found that you cannot always plan for those caring conversations. "Sometimes they happen in the car when the kids are in the backseat and you are driving. The lack of direct eye contact helps maybe or they think you are a bit distracted..." Shannon wondered as she recalled Matthew sharing his concern for a sad friend as they drove away from a party. He did not save this topic for dinner. The caring conversation happened right there. Wow. A holy moment in the car. Unplanned and perfect. "You have to be ready to receive it," Richard observed. Caring conversations and the Holy can happen anywhere.

I asked Shannon and Richard what makes a conversation a caring one for them. Shannon explained, "When there is something about the topic that signals to each of you that you are moving into something more than the mundane...when you are interested in the outcome of the conversation for the other person...when you are interested in what the other needs to hear." For Richard, "When you are really being present."

Before I left I took one last look at my favorite piece of art the Campitellis have in their home. Two large frames hang side by side above the coach in their family room. Each contains a silk suit and hat the perfect size for an infant. Shannon and Richard said that one belonged to Matthew and one to Gregory. Each boy was given one when he reached a certain age as a baby in Korea. These are wonderful gifts these boys will have forever. They are a part of their Korean heritage and culture. The reason each boy has a suit is, wait. I won't tell you. In fact, I will not include a photo. Instead, I hope you will find Richard, Shannon, Matthew or Gregory and ask one of them. It is their story and a perfect way for you and the Campitellis to have your own caring conversation.