I think I found the one word in the English language, or any language for that matter, that has the most meanings. Family. It means something different to everyone. Still, the idea behind it is probably pretty similar to all who are asked what family means to them. What does the word family conjure up for you? During the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving, traveling through Christmas and carrying over into the New Year, the focus on family jumps up quite a few notches from the rest of the year.
Families no longer only consist of what was considered the perfect, traditional, dynamic: mother, father, and children. Families today come in all sizes, genders, ages and colors. In fact, the new family dynamic is limitless. Thank God. If the purpose of a family is to create a unit in an environment with people who really care about each other, then families should be whatever they need to be. Today, they can be.
When you realize that you are going to get together with family for the holidays, how do you react? Do you get excited and feel happy at the prospect of seeing people you may not have seen in awhile? Do you dread it, hoping Uncle so and so can’t make it or cousin this or that has somehow miraculously changed and become tolerable? On occasion there can be tension and contention between some family members whom we call family only because they are related to us. Then again, maybe there is someone out there who you cared for once, someone you lost touch with, whom, like you, is wondering how you are? What better time than the holidays to contact them or try to make a concerted effort to bridge the gap and resolve an outstanding and possibly long-term rift with them. Family means being able to say you’re sorry and mean it. Family is the core of who we are and the backbone of how we live. Family gatherings always exceed expectations, good and bad. There is no getting around the fact that when personalities and beliefs are added into the mix, there is no telling how a holiday get together will turn out. Of course families can be complicated, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, right?
In the Hawaiian language Ohana means family, but in a larger sense than whatever we think of as the everyday family. A person’s ohana can include not only their blood or adoptive relatives, but also their best friends, neighbors, or anyone who is special in their life that are bound together by a genuine compassion, support, loyalty and love for each other. Many of us have multiple families: We have families at home, at work, at church, at school, in the military, in the community and around the world. The people we choose to let in and really be a part of our lives and who have shown us love and care are family.
Sociologists, anthropologists, society, the legal system and the government all have their own definition of family. Unfortunately there is not always agreement among those who categorize, dissect, and analyze families and their diverse composition for whatever reason suits them. Family is about connection. It’s about the network of relationships that are important to us. Having a close-knit family is a gift. It’s whom we reach out for in times of crisis. It’s whom we put up with when we are exasperated. It’s whom we can get angry with and be honest with without fear of being judged or belittled. It’s whom we rally around when there is an emergency. It’s whom we celebrate with in times of joy.
So when the holidays roll around and you gather with family, some whom you see everyday, or with others whom you see once a year or whom you haven’t seen in a long time, take the time to enjoy each other and be thankful that you are blessed to have people in your life that you care about enough, and who care about you, to call family. Remember this; if you shower the people you love with love, you will always have family, near and far, all the year through.