Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children, 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

She says:

Maura says: Liam and I have been fortunate enough to take a vacation with our family each year since we were married. No matter where we go, we have a great time. I know we have created many fond memories.

This year’s vacation has already been planned, but I have been thinking of doing something very different for next year.

Instead of our usual trip — going to the shore or a theme park area or to the mountains for our own relaxation and pleasure — I thought we should go to a mission area and spend a week helping the poor or building homes with an organization like Habitat for Humanity.

Our kids are teenagers now, and it is time for them to start getting a taste of poverty and to realize how privileged their lives have been. An alternative to a mission trip would be a trip to Poland, where we would visit Auschwitz to educate ourselves on the Holocaust.

In today’s secular world, I think it is important for us to provide our kids with a firsthand knowledge of the challenges presented to other people who do not live in the lap of luxury as we do here in the U.S. Liam is very reserved about doing something like this type of vacation. He thinks the kids can read about the Holocaust or share some of their own money to help the missions.

He Says:

Liam says:  We have always taught our children about God, sharing, spending time with the elderly and so forth. Our vacation should be a fun time for us.

We work hard all year and we’ve earned it. Maura wants to give up a whole week of family fun to go to a depressed area to work, or to go to a foreign country to learn more about a horrific experience for humanity. Either option could just leave us aching from working to build a house for someone, or depressed after visiting the site of human atrocities.

I need to get some rest and relaxation after working hard all year. Aren’t there other ways for our kids to learn about helping others or being empathetic to situations that should never have happened?

After all, Jesus himself said, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

What Do They Do?

Deep down within us, memories are created when we give of our substance to others. That means going beyond giving an extra $10 to the mission collection, or once in a while, personally going to the homeless shelter to dish out food to the truly poor.

Maura’s idea of spending vacation time with the family to do something really different could provide a deeper connection and spiritual dimension to their family than any regular vacation might provide.

Liam should seriously consider doing this for one vacation … to go beyond the norm, and to choose to make a mark on the world (or the village you visit) and in the process grow deeply in his own family spirituality.

Maura has a superb idea. She should gather information about various ways to help those in need, and if possible, ask a family that has done something like this to share their experiences with her family.

Invite the other families with whom they go on vacation to see if there is any interest. They may surprise you.

Even if the other families show no interest, Maura and Liam should go ahead themselves. After all, it would only be a one-year change in routine, and the effects may exceed their expectations — and be life-altering for their teenagers.

As Scripture reminds us, “He who confers benefits will be amply enriched, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 12:25).