There’s a word that I have heard about a lot lately in different conversations: family. There may be some people that recoil when they hear that word if their experience with a family was painful. I am blessed to have a good family and, for me, that word means “love”.
I am an only child, and my dad has passed away, so all that remains of the household I grew up with is my mom. I am very much aware that when she is gone, my memories become stories, but that is a topic for a different day. I have lots of cousins, aunts, and uncles who are still alive and I get to see from time to time. So much of that time is filled with stories of the past and I love hearing those.
There are other groups that I actually spend more time with and know more about my current, day-to-day life. They are my coworkers, my church congregation, and my running group. Each of these represent different types of family for me.
I think that the role of a family is to have a ready-made crew of people that go with you through life. They celebrate your successes and mourn your sorrows. They work with you towards a common goal. They nurture you, but also correct you when you are headed in the wrong direction. They carry you when you are hurt or can’t support your own weight.
My coworkers are a team who, while different, work together for a common goal. We each have tasks we must complete individually to meet that goal and how I complete my task may look different than how another completes theirs. But one of the things that gives us the feel of a family is how we help and care about each other. One of us passed away last year. It is a loss we still feel and I sort of cocooned among my work family during that time since we were all feeling a similar sense that someone was missing.
My church congregation has a similar feel: we are a diverse group who journey with a common purpose. It’s a good mix for me of nurturing and stretching. We can live in the tension of an unanswered question without feeling the need to resolve it hastily just to relieve the strain. We have a bond that is strong. One of my first memories of this is seeing the relief on the face of an elder after verifying we were all safe after a disaster in our area. I have comfort that any need I make known would be met.
My running group has a name: The Runmily. That was a natural label fairly early in our experiences together. Through all the miles we have covered and conversations shared, we have become a part of each other’s lives. We aren’t competitive so our runs are a time to escape from the worries and fears of life and lean on each other (mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally).
Families share a common language. Beyond the inside jokes, there is a unique vernacular that each of these groups express. There are terms that I share with my coworkers based on our field but also based on our institution and culture. There are words and songs known to my congregation that aren’t heard in other churches. My runmily speaks in nicknames and shorthand, especially mid-run when we are trying to catch our breath.
I am beyond thankful that I have so many family groups I claim and that are willing to claim me. So many people who can bring a smile to my face on a bad day, bring correction to my behavior, or bring a new way of seeing things. Whether they are the ones given to me or the ones I chose, my families are part of the good around me.