Pearl S Buck wrote in the 1950’s that, “The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.”
Since that time things have changed all the more and less and less do we as individuals rely on family or for that matter even know what family is. In many cases time is wasted lamenting who our family is or, I guess, who they are not. Desmond Tutu mused that “you don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” This is a point often lost on people. Pearl Buck understood the importance of kinship and the need for more than one perspective, more than one voice, and more than one approach to raise a child to adulthood. Being among my kin these past few days has been a strong reminder of the importance of family. There is 21 years between myself and my oldest brother. Mom and Dad had a home with seven children in it. There were so many people who took part in my growth and my learning. Too often I have forgotten the importance of family. Our families are really a gift from God and God has granted us kin that we might bond to others and know the support, love, care, and protection as offered in kinship.
In each of my four brothers and two sisters and in my wonderful parents I see strong gifts and I know that these gifts have been used to benefit my own growth. In different moments in my life there have been times when I could rely on a brother, a sister, or a parent and their giftedness to help me grow and help me change. We are not all the sae in this family. We do not see things in the same way. There are different interests in my family. Yet in the midst of our kinship we would do most anything for each other. That is a tremendous gift.
Dad said something really touching the other day. He was reflecting on his long and productive life and musing about how he really is content and optimistic about the future. In looking and today and tomorrow he was speaking to me about ‘yesterday.’ “I have watched my whole family grow up and I am so proud of all of all of you,” dad said adding, “I have a wonderful family.” Kinship is important, Dad recognises this and we all need to recognize this as well. Dad is right we have a wonderful family. It is not perfect, but it really is good. I pray that we might all find wonderful family. I also pray that we might work to be as present to each other as family as much as we can. As family gets larger it becomes easier to forget about the other and focus on self. I look at the children here, our nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and I am pleased for them that they have such a strong network around them. Make no mistake that one does not need to have been born into a family of seven to have good kinship. You see we can have kinship by creating small units of love and respect around us a looking to lean on those we love when we need to and to hold up those whom we love when they need that gift as well. It is how things are meant to be. There are cultures where entire villiages participate in child rearing. Our culture has in many ways left us as isolated pods of 2.5 people. We can reverse that trend. I think of the community’s committment at a baptism for instance. The church, the faithful, the community, commits to "do all in their power support and uphold the child in his/her life in Christ." This is a powerful promise and it is forgotten too often after it is uttered. We need communites, and our children need communities, and we need each other. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, we can face so much more in life, both joy and sorrow.
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. – JANE HOWARD