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
This weekend I attended a reunion of the “Leslie ” side of my family tree. I experienced an instant connection with people I’d never met because we shared the same heritage. I searched faces for evidence of my grandfather and listened to memories made years before my birth. My time there reminded me of the value of family.
I am so grateful to my mother and two fathers for giving me such an incredible childhood. One thing I’m particularly thankful for is how my natural father and my stepfather treated each other around me. Mom and Dad (Carroll) divorced when I was three. Mom and Daddy (Charles) married when I was around four. During school summer vacation, Mom and Charles took me to Mississippi so I could spend a few weeks with Carroll. When we arrived, both my fathers would take the time to have a beer together and talk. I can’t tell you how much that added to my security and peace.
You see, when I was a child, divorce was NOT a common thing. In school I may have been one out of three children who did not share the same name as their mother. It made me feel out of place, different—an oddity. But what I DID have was two daddies who loved me.
Years later history repeated itself. My first husband left me and Neal found me. We followed the example of my parents in providing security for Amanda and to insure even more security, Neal was able to adopt her, giving her his name.
Eleven months later Rob was born and every other year after we had a new baby until we stopped at five. We were the Apple Corps, sometimes lovingly called the Apple Mafia in the sense that we were (and are) a tightly knit group of trusted members who may fight within but will fiercely defend from attacks without.
Isn’t that what a family should be? A place where love is lavished, order is created, a place of acceptance and safety, a place to learn, a safe place to fail, and a place where success is celebrated. Through the years we practiced this in our little clan and my kids friends often expressed the wish that they were also “Apples.” Therefore, we emotionally adopted them as part of our family and shared the love. Even today some of these “kids” bring their families to visit us—an unexpected reward for opening our home.
Why am I giving you this history? Because of something I heard at the reunion. One of my cousins is a teacher. She noticed that one of her little students just hadn’t been herself lately. When she asked the girl what was wrong, the child told her she hadn’t eaten in two days. My cousin immediately sent an aide to buy the little girl some lunch. The aide returned and placed the food on the girl’s desk, but the she wouldn’t eat it. When asked why, she answered that she was saving it for her little sister at home. That broke my heart. Things at this small child’s home were out of her control and she was hungry.
This child needs security—she needs family. And even though she isn’t on our branch of the family tree, she is still a part of the my tree—the family tree of mankind.
Last Thursday night at our writer’s group one of the members who works with the homeless said there is a severe shortage in the food banks. People are hungry. In this economy, men, women, and children are struggling. Shouldn’t we come to the aid of those suffering in the family of mankind?
Some of you may have bitter memories of family life. But don’t let that taint your minds as to what a family really is—a place of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and support. Close the door on your past, open it to the present and future. There is a psalm that says God places the lonely in families. Open your heart to those who need family love. Be a brother or sister, mother or father, grandmother or grandfather to those who need support, who are hungry, who are lonely.
After all, we are family.