Growing up in Ohio, one of the best times of the day was dinner time. Although our family included only five of us, it seemed like the supper conversations were often lively, the food delicious and the smiles contagious.
As family members started breaking away, the nightly table got quieter and finally ceased to function as the hub our lives. The first to leave was my older sister who went away to nursing school. Then, my brother joined the Air National Guard and left for basic training. When he returned, he soon married his longtime girlfriend and moved out for good. Finally, Dad went on second shift at the auto factory. His primary motivation: to extend his work life, despite impending trouble with emphysema.
All was not lost. Everyone came back for major holidays and soon they brought along their children. Laughter returned to the dinner table in large quantities and blessings of family continued flowing.
Although I didn't think about it in those early days, I've since come to understand that strong family bonds require effort, attention to detail and considerable attention to the art of loving well. In our younger years, things just seem to be however they are. Perhaps we think it is luck or predestination. We were either fortunate enough to be born into a loving, functioning family or not. Later, we start to realize that our beliefs, attitudes and actions have a lot to do with the success of our family. By noticing families that aren't doing life well, we learn how critical it is to cherish and nurture our family moments.
Choices mold our relationships. If we choose to love our struggling siblings, they may choose to love us when it is our turn to struggle. If we choose to overlook transgressions (real and imagined,) we give our family room to grow. Conversely, a choice to travel the road of unforgiveness might invoke terrible consequences or even the dissolution of our family unit.
They say your can't choose your family, but I disagree. We choose our family daily based on how much effort we are willing to expend in loving them. Take a few minutes to love your family today.