Family is such an interesting word. It means many things to many people. To some it is simply those who they are genetically related to. For others, it means those that they have found to be like-minded and that they count close enough to be considered family. In almost every definition family are those who we care about and who care about us. Yet we so often change who we care about and who cares about us that it seems the term is somewhat disingenuous. Maybe, ‘circle of acquaintances’ would better define most ‘families’. You may be genetically related to a cousin you have never met, or an uncle who you don’t like. You may be friends with someone who is closer than a brother, but in the end they may discount and discard your love as so many of our genetically related ‘family’ members.
Family is a word that has also taken a nasty turn into politics. ‘Family values’ is a term used to describe a particular ideology of what is and can be family. Yet, so many times those who we most want to love and those that most want to love us are unbelievably destructive.
Does ‘family’ really mean anything at all? ‘So and so is just like family’…what do we mean by that? Does that mean that they are obligated to take care of you? Are the obligated to put up with your unpleasantness? Are they required by some unseen force of nature to love you?
Most of the time when we talk about family, we are really talking about our duties as we see them to be a part of a group. Robert E. Lee described it like this, “Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”
In many ways, this is what family is all about. Doing what is your duty and being able at the end to live your life without regret than you did less than your duty to help and support those you love…or those who should have shown you love, even if they did not do it at all or, more likely, in the way you expected.
Today, I hope to show love to those in my sphere of influence and to build stronger ties to my duties to them, regardless of their actions. Finding those whom I enjoy spending time with does not make them family. Discovering that someone I love did something they should not have done does not decrease my duty to them. In the end, all we can hope for is that we can find light in the day, joy in small things and true happiness in showing others love regardless of what they may show us of themselves.
If at the end of my days I have performed my duty and found even one person, family or not, to love and to be loved in return then I will count myself blessed. In the words of St. Francis:
- Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
- Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
- Where there is injury, pardon;
- Where there is doubt, faith;
- Where there is despair, hope;
- Where there is darkness, light;
- Where there is sadness, joy.
- O Divine Master,
- grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
- to be understood, as to understand;
- to be loved, as to love.
- For it is in giving that we receive.
- It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
- and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.