Be Still. Be Free. Be Content.

A lifestyle blog about achieving balance in your everyday life.

Tengo Famiglia!
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tengo Famiglia!

Each year throughout the month of September, Grand Rapids commences its new season of the arts. Family and friends reunite as we catch up on big news, share our Lakeshore adventures, and make plans for the months ahead. The city bustles as the calendar unfolds: from opening nights and Art Prize, to holiday features and the Nutcracker ballet, there is a contagious energy that captivates our spirits.

As a board member with several cultural institutions, a great deal of my time is spent in commitment to the arts. Whether attending a performance or serving alongside peers, I am humbled by the experience of sharing these gifts, and with each event reminded of such treasured memories with my family from seasons past.

For as far back as I can recall, I have been a lover of the arts. Be it raw or refined, my relationship with the expressive form began young. Although I myself am neither an artist nor a performer, I was fortunate enough to grow into a patron, an advocate and enthusiast. This I owe to my parents.

Jackie and Terry Hickman are what we in Grand Rapids call “snow birds.” Born and raised in West Michigan, my mother and father have transitioned into their well-deserved retirement, enjoying the beautiful summers in downtown Grand Rapids before migrating south for the warm Florida winters.

It was upon my parents’ relocation that I realized how big a role the arts have come to play in my life, as I sought among friends a new partner with whom I could share in the main concert season. And in the spirit of change, my family and I embarked on our new chapter as we set out to explore West Michigan’s off-season calendar.

There are so many great things to say about our local grassroots culture– but it was a production at the Circle Theatre that left the deepest impact on me this summer. Over the River and Through the Woods is the comedic story of a modern Italian immigrant family. The play is treated as a comedy while tackling real life drama, offering a humanistic approach to the struggles innate with life, love, and commitment.

One line in the play captured precisely what this moment at the theatre meant to me: “tengo famiglia!,” or “family first.” As I sat, enchanted by the theatrics, I was moved to my own awareness of so many sacrifices that had been made by my amazing parents with whom I was sharing this experience. I thought of my brother Chad and found myself imaging what it must have been like for two young people handling a cancer diagnosis of their toddler son after just welcoming their second child. I thought of my father’s fearlessness in taking on corporate boardrooms with little experience, but with the determination of a man driven to take care of his family. I thought of my mother’s nurturing and selflessness, her compassion and courage –how she has always managed to find more space in her heart to care for those around her, even amidst her own battle to defeat cancer, or as we mourned the loss of Chad. I thought back on all the love, and yet was not able to recall a moment of quitting, complaint. Not a moment where “no” was even an option.


I dropped my parents off after the show, and I watched them for a moment, my eyes filled with tears, as I recognized the weight of sacrifice they carried with each step toward the front door. I could see them as young parents with their resilience and grit, and felt inspired as I processed their story, their struggles, but most of all, their courage in rising above it all to provide Chad and I with a better life than that of their own.

Every day is one in which I hold my parents’ journey close to my heart. Through my work with TaskPro, my community service, and my friendships and daily interactions, I can only hope that my actions honor the sacrifices my mother and father made in order to give me this wonderful life. To all of the parents who are working so hard and selflessly, on behalf of your families and in building the foundations for our future generations: Thank you.


Nathan Hickman, Founder

Tuesday, December 20, 2016  | 1 Comments | Post a Comment
Amy commented on 20-Dec-2016 07:40 PM
Well said Nathan! And I remember that fireplace, it's my mom & dad's. We were all lucky to have such amazing parents.

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