Families are sacred, just as people are sacred. We war with them and worry over them and love them as best we can. This is the message we came to ponder in the cozy Manhattan home of Catherine Gellert, wrapped in hospitality, on the coldest of New York evenings. With his trademark grace, Charlie Collier, revered author of “Wealth In Families,” transformed us into a family and gently drew us into a courageous conversation about our children, our parents, and even our in-laws. In so doing, Charlie taught us how to have the essential conversations that keep our families working together toward common goals.

Charlie gave us his studied assessment of seven essential practices of effective families— Make decisions more on thinking than emotion; form relationships with as many family members as possible; foster an open and inclusive family system; responsibly support family members through life transitions; think creatively about responding to life’s challenges; rear autonomous children; strive to have relationships with adult children that are open, separate, and equal. No small list!

This conference calls us to deepen our resolve, as families and the staff who serve them, to embrace Charlie’s charge to be more courageous in all of our relationships, with each other, with those we serve through our philanthropic work, and with those we need to gather around us to get that work accomplished more effectively.

Jane Holliday Wilson is the director of community partnerships for the Robins
Foundation
in Richmond, Virginia

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