The curious part about going to church when I was younger was when the priest told us to turn to our neighbor and greet them. Sometimes, I’d feel shy if I was standing around a bunch of strangers, but afterwards, I always felt a stronger sense of community. Making eye contact, smiling, and touching a stranger’s hand can feel intimidating but from time to time, I’d notice how others around me would help me relax by making the first move. This, I appreciated tremendously. It was a gift on their part, an offering. They were telling me, It’s okay, I’m safe. In this moment, we are family.
Many of us, across the globe, have experienced loss, displacement and other types of radical change. This upheaval can separate us from this safe feeling of being at home and belonging. It’s easy to get lost in fond memories and try to hold onto to what was—but perhaps we’re being asked to broaden our notion of family.
Family is two or more people that share a common bond, that choose to be together in the moment. The word family comes from the Latin famulus, meaning servant; which, also enriches the meaning.
When we choose to turn our full attention to the person or people standing with us right now, and we offer them a kind smile, the touch of our hand or a warm embrace—we are, in actuality, performing an act of love and service. We’re creating a shared bond by offering them the spirit of safety and belonging.
I am fortunate to have a beautiful, loving family who from time to time live far away from me. I also have loved ones who reside even farther away since their passing. But, right now, I can choose to be a devoted and loving servant to the people in my presence. I can say to them, you are my family.