During my first semester as an HDFS major, I took the Foundation class and remember an assignment early on in which we were asked to define the word, “Family.” I thought that would be easy, until I actually thought about it. My family consists of 6 kids and 2 parents…but then there are aunts who are really like mothers to me, or the cousins who are like sisters and brothers. And where do the close family friends go? What about stepfamilies, kids who are adopted? Where does the line of family begin and end? It is very difficult to put the concept into a concise definition.
The assignment left me with more questions than answers, as any good college assignment will do. And it left me with an impression that family is much more inclusive, much more flexible a word than I had previously thought.
Flash forward to present day- Josh and I hosted a New Year’s Day party- and were blown away by the wonderful combination of people who showed up. Various ages, countries, and languages were represented, delicious food was offered, old friends caught up, and new connections were made.
At the party, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine from Mexico. She doesn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak much Spanish, but we always seem to understand one another…at least the gist, the heart of what one another is saying. She told me about how, in Mexico, her house is always overflowing with family- aunts, uncles, cousins. But here, she doesn’t have much family, and her house is rarely overflowing. I agreed with her- explaining that it is much like that in my New Jersey home- houses overflowing and family always together. But as we both looked around the room, we were reminded of our family here, the family we have created in our small city. It is amazing what can be communicated in so few words. She told Josh and I that we had become family for them here. We feel the same way about them.
I came to this place many years ago with no “family,” knowing no one, and I have found family in neighbors, classmates, co-workers, church friends, and beyond. As I learned from my little assignment in college, I am reminded that family does not necessarily mean bloodlines, in fact it often does not. We are not just born into a family , we find family as we go, if we are open to receiving others into our lives.