I recently had a couple of experiences that made me stop and think about the topic of family. Granted, there are several definitions of family; in fact, if you type in the word on dictionary.com, there alone resides 20 different definitions. Specifically, I am talking about #10: ‘a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and, frequently, live together.’ The whole concept of family seems to be lost to the general populace in American society. Yes, there are exceptions, by when did it become the exception?! Why did we let it even get to that point?
I find it tragic that we have completely lost the sense of what it means to come together, united under the act of just enjoying one another. We have become a society that never slows it’s pace long enough to sit down to dinner with it’s kids, much less upholds the old tradition of making extra food with the expectation that one of the family friends was very likely to pop in unannounced and be expected to sit down and eat. Why do we have to be all about ourselves instead of making that phone call on Saturday morning, asking when ‘they’ plan on being over for the barbecue? When did invitations stop being gold engraved and exclusive to black tie affairs?
Over the course of the last week, I was introduced to a group of Filipino’s that own and operate a barbershop and a coffee shop where I currently work (overseas). They are all very nice people and very polite. Of course, if you know anything about Filipino’s they seem to know every other Filipino on the planet, regardless of where they live. They are a very open and family oriented culture. I was introduced by a colleague of mine who had made friends with them over the course of the year (partly due to being engaged to a young Filipino woman… I do not jest when I say they know every other Filipino!) As a going away gesture, they had invited him to dinner and he asked if I would like to come along. I love to experience new things, so I accepted. The food was incredible of course, and they made way more than my large stomach could handle. After the meal I thanked them, as anyone would do, and we departed for the evening. The following day I returned to the coffee shop for my daily cup and the owner basically tells me what time they are making lunch and that I need to be there. Not wanting to be rude, I again accepted. Long story short, this happened about three or four times over the course of the next two days. They also proceed to give me a couple of free coffees here and there. I did nothing to warrant this kind of treatment, and they wouldn’t accept anything in return (including an offer to help wash dishes.) This unconditional politeness and I dare say friendship took me aback slightly. This is just not something that the American culture does anymore.
When I was growing up, my parents brought people in and treated them as extended members of the family quite often. I didn’t really understand the purpose behind it, especially considering that I never really saw much of my actual family. The whole thing became somewhat normal to me, even though I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with some of the people that hung around. As I grew older and started out on my own, I gradually began to follow suit with the company I kept. My door seemed to always be open, and I rarely spent time alone. There were the occasional planned events, but for the most part, I just sort of knew that someone would be by at some point. As an adult and working in the field(s) that I do, I expected the same, yet it trailed off. People didn’t just show up anymore. I didn’t change. My wife is on the same wavelength as me when it comes to having people around. So what happened?
We (my wife and I) love to entertain. We love having a full house. It’s just the way we do things. There just seems to be a shortage of that ‘family’ anymore. We have friends, sure. We have even discovered (or in a case or two, re-discovered) some really great people over the last year. One’s that would be welcome in our home no matter what, no matter when. They don’t have anything we want or need, they are just themselves. They are just… family. It’s too bad there aren’t more of them. The backyards, porches, and dinner tables (remember those?) of America sure could use the company.