Monday, July 20, 2015

Family Matters

Family is a funny thing.  Some of us complain about what's missing from ours.  Others cut out the family we don't want to claim as ours.  And most of us just don't appreciate it much until much later in life.  As I think about how I want my children to appreciate their family experience, it's convicted me that I must model that for them.  

Last weekend I attended a family reunion and had a moment of reflection that just hasn't left me.  What does being family mean?  Different things to different people, of course.  One thing it really is, though, is a group of people who share experiences.  There are people, places and events that were shared over time and no matter the course of their life later, those common elements will remain.

There are billions of strangers that even if you meet you likely won't share more than a glance or a few words.  With your family, extended and immediate, you share hundreds of instances and events before you're even born!  Especially in childhood, there are only a certain number of people who will witness your many milestones.  Within each family group, there are certain people or items that have great significance (simply because you all were there together) that will hold no value to anyone outside of the group.  That commonality that you share with family members matters.  I believe it matters more than we think.  No matter where you are today, those people were witnesses in your life and the life of those you both love.  It matters because of that, I think.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in most circumstances (not talking about abuse or criminal behavior), our various family circles deserve a little more love than we tend to give.  We forget that they were there too.  Sure, not all experiences are going to be the same, but the commonality of places and people means that their different experience might help us find better perspective sometimes.  With my own little family, I know that one day J & Miss Z will have conversations about their parents, probably complaining about how awful we are in some way.  And they will have the best tools in each other to better understand what's happening.

Family, big or small, near or far, isn't just some obligation to fulfill.  It is an obligation, but within it are endless opportunities and tools to grow and gain a better, richer experience - even separate from them completely.  In the past I've let myself get so caught up in how family makes me feel or how much I agree with them on this or that.  Discussion and principled debate has it's place but it shouldn't overshadow the respect we all deserve for being witnesses to each other's life.  Even more so when they were supportive and active witnesses.  May we work a little bit harder on loving for others' sake and honoring because of history's sake.


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