From the late 1950s and through the 1970s television brought to us images that reflected what was then considered the norm, at least to those the Madison Avenue ad agencies identified as their best market, through such programs as Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as well as others of the same genre. One program, My Three Sons, was for their time an experiment in stretching the limits as they explored the ‘family’ unit without a mother, substituting a curmudgeonly grandfather who lived with the father and his three sons. In every instance, yes even on such programs as Mister Ed, the relationships within the ‘family’ were emphasized and the manner in which the action played out emphasized the emotional as well as physical ties within the ‘family’. What we view as ‘family’ has changed, perhaps more dramatically in recent years than ever before. Programs such as All in the ‘Family introduced how even through such dysfunctional relationships as that between Meathead and Archie, ‘family’ was still ‘family’.
In my life I have experienced differing types of ‘family’, not only the allegedly ‘typical’ ‘family’ that was the Shook ‘family’ that I grew up in (with its’ own level of dysfunction and camaraderie at times), but in the military through my ‘‘family’’ on submarines I served on or other groupings that came and went in which we relied upon each other to get a particular mission or objective accomplished. A recently released movie purporting to tell the story of a Special-Ops group, Lone Survivor, emphasizes the emotional and physical ties that can exist within such a collection of people when struggling against a common foe; in this case a collection of people from disparate backgrounds who are welded into a unit that remains faithful in defending each other against an overwhelming enemy. Such is ‘family’; a uniting to accomplish a goal and/or to fight against a common foe no matter the differences each has with the other members of the ‘family’.
Support and succor highlight the ‘family’; we care for one another no matter what those outside the ‘family’ may say or think. A phrase from yet another early show, Wagon Train, comes to mind to describe this, “…circling the wagons…” The often acrimonious relationships within the different wagons or between different families in different wagons were forgotten when the wagon train came under attack. The individual families in their own wagons would circle to form a defensive perimeter from which they would together fight to defend each other from attack by whatever villains the writers had conjured up for that particular weeks’ episode. Those wounded would be cared for by the ‘family’ making up the entire wagon train; those killed would likewise be mourned by them all.
Yes, I’ve been part of many different types of ‘family’ in my life and it is likely that I will continue to join others as time goes on. Recently, however, I have become part of some ‘families’ that have done much to help me realize that ‘‘family’’ can mean many different things, but all have that one thing in common; supporting one another through the various trials and vicissitudes of life. A burden shared is halved, a joy is doubled; that is what I am discovering in my most recent families; whether the men of the Friday morning Bible Study at the Chapel Hill Bible Church (www.biblechurch.org), members of the Cary Life Group associated with the Bible Church or my most recent ‘‘family’,’ the incredible collection of folks that make up Go Realty (www.gorealty.biz).
Because of wrong decisions over thirty years ago, many (most?) in society today view me in a certain manner, but those in my ‘families’ have come alongside me to support and encourage me in ways that still amaze me. Belonging to these ‘families’ has given me a sense of worth and value that I’d not expected because they have come to know me and recognize that no matter what my past has been, my future is bright as part of their ‘families’. Much as the invitation that Jesus gives, they too invite me to belong, to participate in their ‘family’ and grow with them individually and collectively. Family; I like it.