Unlikely Help: The Five Families – How God Used A Book To Heal

What does the Mafia has to do with ….?

What is this? What does the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra has to do with healing? I can assure you that it is not of their doing. Rather, it has much to do, with a book called “The Five Families” by Selwyn Raab. With God, I have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to reading or other avenues. This book detailing the history of the notorious Cosa Nostra is no difference.

I’d encourage you to listen to the podcast and continue reading today’s blog post. I trust that you’ll find the podcast to be interesting. With understanding comes forgiveness! With understanding comes healing and appreciation! Let not the past dictate your future.

Selwyn’s book did not just covered the doings of the five individual crime families. He, also covered an often overlooked factor. I am talking about the Italian American culture of the 30s, 40s and onward. Though Sicilian born, they had an impact on the larger Italian American immigrant community in that area.

Keep in mind, Italians were not very welcomed, in that time period. They were looked down upon or assumed to be a part of something sinister. Their sphere of influence is not limited to the five boroughs of New York City. It was also felt in the Newark-Jersey City area. Though they were criminals, the families had an unlikely level of respect from many Italian communities.

That is what I learned from the book, “The Five Families”. Here’s where my story comes in. My father was born in 1939, and lived in the Newark area. I am told that his father, a son of an Italian immigrant, worked at the docks and at a steel mill. Though smart, my dad was not a straight arrow.

At one time, my father told me, “You would have walked away, if you had met me, in my younger day. Because, you would have serious trouble is around the corner.” My father was not kidding. He actually did get into serious trouble and we’re not talking simple teenage hijinks.

My dad was a tough guy and had the muscle and mouth to back it, up. I would not have been shocked if he had connected with someone from the local mafia, in those days. It was not inconceivable. Let’s add a little spice to this! What would you say, if a father tells his son that he has two choices: Join the military? Your butt is getting kicked out on the street.

My grandfather was not putting up with my dad’s antics. He actually wanted the best for his son; however, a line had to be drawn. Thankfully, my father chose the Marine and they took care of my dad’s attitude towards authority, for the most part. I am proud of my father for choosing to serve his country and give my thanks to US Marines.

As I mentioned in the podcast, I am also proud of my parents for making some very bold choices, in their lives. You’ll have to listen to the podcast for that detail. Unfortunately, my brothers and I never knew of it or of a connection to a known mafia figure in the Newark area.

Here is where the book comes in. A couple of years ago, we learned that the mafia connection is real and it opened the door to learning of unexpected families. With all the talk about the Mafia, I thought it would be good to learn what my family is getting into. So, I did some research and found the book, “The Five Families”.

As I read the book, I was catching glimpses of what it meant for my departed father to be growing up in Bellville, NJ. Though he didn’t grow up in a poor home setting; his family is far from rich. Though my father was not a part of La Cosa Nostra, he did grow up in that same environment.

When I came along, many things changed for my dad. It is not easy to raise a child with serious sensory disabilities, like mine; especially in the 1960s. I am sure it was not an easy cakewalk for my mother, either. As I got older, I have been told “You are just like your father!” I did not just hear this from my mother. My father’s mother said the same thing.

As it happens, I did more than inherit my father’s personality traits. How about his tendency to argue and question what one hears? How about an avid reader? How about courage? It does not stop there. As my aunt Joan mentioned, “You inherited good and bad traits from both my parents.” She is right!

Guess who I argued the most with? Yes, it was my father. I had some very serious problems with him. I desperately wanted my father to acknowledge me. Of course, he loved me and my father would deck anyone for saying, otherwise. I knew through his actions, though not his words.

I really did not understand what the heck is going on. It was a different time and culture was often the vague response. Yet, I could say, “I love you” to my father and told him. I am glad that I had the opportunity to do it, before he died in March 2000.

My father had also tried to toughen me, in preparation for what lies ahead. He did not have an optimistic view on life; rather it is a realist view fueled by negativity. He didn’t trust the system or others. He unwittingly instilled a great deal of fear and uncertainty into my heart. Yet, it was in sharp contrast to what I was seeing around me.

Of course, it helped that I read Scriptures and Marvel Comics in the 70s. Yes, Marvel is another source of unlikely source of help. In school, I came to know teachers and others who’d prove to be a help in changing my perception of the world around me. Of course, there is also the introduction of the computer into my school in ’82.

I was developing a hope filled realist view of the world around me. It stood in sharp contrast to my father’s view of the world. Between the contrasting views and my father’s need to be tough on me, I felt a great deal of frustration with my father. I just could not understand what the heck going on, inside of him.

He really didn’t go into details about his life. Heck, I did not know that he was a capable sketch artist, too. My Father used Selwyn Raab’s book to open a window into time and instilled a sense of the culture of that time. My father was a tough guy and he grew up in the 40s and 50s. The book has about 60 chapters and I stopped somewhere in the midpoint.

I learned what I needed to know. Finally, I can actually understand the underlying culture that my father grew up in. You do not have to be in the mafia to be exposed by that culture. With a touch of irony, I give my thanks to an unlikely source of help in knowing my father. I already forgave him and I’d happily do it, again.

God’s healing did not stop there. I, also came to a better understanding of the character traits already existing inside me. Yet, I am not defined by my father’s past. My father was a tough guy and got into a lot of trouble. Because of the blood of Jesus, I do not have to conform to that identity because I’ve been given a new one in Chris!

Here’s another component of God’s healing work. I am thankful my father never went into details of his hijinks. If I did not have my physical limitations, it is possible I could have been tempted to get into similar troubles. I am just like my father, after all!

My father isn’t all bad. Though Dad had a mouth, he made certain that his sons learned to respect their mother, regardless. I wonder where he learned that concept. Could it be his parents? I think so! I am sure the prevailing culture was a part of that.

I hope you are enjoying this blog post and it is proving to be of some help, to you. Perhaps, you are struggling with something in your own life. It could be that you are having an issue with your own mother and father. On its own, this book would not have been so helpful. In truth, it was purely the work of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t be afraid to ask Jesus to come and heal your heart and to help you with your own issues. My Father does care about you and he can do for you; what’s been done in my own heart. All it takes is a willing heart. The Holy Spirit is able to help you in both forgiving others and understanding. You simply have to ask Jesus.


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