Families are like potlucks. We partake of whatever’s there. Some dishes we love and want more helpings, and others we take with a grain of salt or test a spoonful at a time. A few dishes, we may have sampled before and know that they are not to our particular taste so we leave them alone.
|Gene & Elaine|
|The Women of Substance|
Friends are different. Circumstances or the Universe bring us together, and before we know it, those folks have a home in our hearts. Often it happens when we’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, like I was when I ran into Elaine and Gene in Rooster’s, a little coffee shop in Medford, Oregon. Or, when I met those seven extraordinary women by merely walking into Counseling 101 at Cal State Bakersfield back in 1995.
After the initial contact, some of those friends draw even closer; they become like family. Unlike the days when people stayed put, biological families are often spread out across the country or the globe. We’ve begun to enfold the folks whose lives intersect with ours on a regular basis, and regard them as family. They become our “Family of Choice.”
The mutual love, respect, and caring that bind families of choice are every bit as present and strong as our best relationships with the family into which we were born. We are there to support and help in times of trouble and to celebrate the moments of joy.
Sometimes it’s day-to-day contact. We’re helping each other with child-care, making a dinner to share, running an errand, working together on a project, or otherwise checking in. When miles separate us, the warm feeling we have from understanding our special relationship as part of each others’ family of choice lifts our spirits.
These past few years, I’ve been proud and grateful to witness and take part in countless examples of families of choice in action. I’ve seen friends take on the roles of sisters, brothers, parents, and kids, many handling responsibilities that had traditionally been up to family members.
It was the set of friends, the family of choice, who sat with one of my former colleagues in the hospital as she transitioned during her last hour of life when there was no way that her out-of-state siblings could get there.
|Karen, Marilyn, Mary, and Annie|
My Coos Bay, Oregon, family of choice cheered and celebrated with me and for me when my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul was published last summer. Two of them, Karen and Marilyn, were the catalysts for the gratifying book signing event that occurred there.
And, I can never adequately express my appreciation to “Mom Jane,” a retired nurse in Chapel Hill, NC, who accompanied my daughter Asila to numerous medical appointments. When we talk about Asila, we refer to her as “our daughter.”
As human beings, we have an innate need for love and belonging. Being part of a family unit is a prime factor in fulfilling that need, no matter the unit’s origin. Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s also friends who’ve become family who add depth, happiness, and richness to our lives.
Who are some of the people who are part of your family of choice?
~ xoA ~