This is the time of year when we think of family. But really, what does family mean? One of the definitions is “any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins”, and that certainly can be true. However, for many of us, family doesn’t include those of us who are blood kin. We number among our family those friends, coworkers, and neighbors with whom we interact every day and in whose company we revel. That’s one of the best parts of being an adult. We can choose who we decide to call family. That’s why I like this definition of family best: “a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for”. One of my favorite lyrics is from Ani DiFranco’s “Willing to Fight”:
I got friends all over this country
I got friends in other countries too
I got friends I haven't met yet
I got friends I never knew
I got lovers whose eyes
I've only seen at a glance
I got strangers for great grandchildren
I got strangers for ancestors
This has always resonated with me. I don’t know if Ani intended to make the statement that her family is comprised of strangers and that her friends are more precious to her, but that’s my takeaway. She could also mean that her progeny will live long after she’s gone and that she (same as the rest of us) is confined to the present and can neither see the future nor meet people from the past. Either way, really, these lyrics are about making your family in the present. Making the most of today, as well.
So how do you do that? Oh, it’s easy! It can be as easy as making a telephone call to your grandmother in Philadelphia or sending handkerchiefs to your uncle in West Virginia. If you do Holiday greeting cards, remember your friend from high school who lives in Los Angeles and the one from college who lives in Wyoming.
The holidays are one of the best seasons for kindness as well. You don’t have to spend exorbitant amounts of money to show kindness either. If you happen to be crafty, you could knit a scarf for your neighbor, or donate a backpack with school supplies to your local school. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is also the time of year when it can be bitterly cold, so you could donate a new or gently used coat (or two) to your local homeless shelter or church coat drive. Volunteering your time is also a worthy exercise, so you could help service in a soup kitchen or even walk a shelter pet. Humans aren’t the only ones who need help at the holidays. And while you’re out doing all these kind things, maybe you’ll make a new family to add to the ranks of your existing one.
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2016