How many cousins do you have?
I have almost a hundred first and second cousins, including the “once-removed” kind, and I can be obnoxious about it in that I act that it’s some kind of achievement. I did absolutely nothing to be born into this family. I’m here because of a cosmic lottery.
I feel proud, comforted, and loved in this family. Moving back to NC in 2018 brought me closer to where my parents grew up and subsequently, I run into cousins on the street sometimes and almost every where I go, someone asks, “Are you related to _____ Edmiston?” Yes, I am.
Last Friday, I visited with a couple of my nonagenarian cousins. One of them shared that she has become close to her husband’s niece who is now raising her own grandchildren after a series of tragic circumstances. Addiction, incarceration, and early deaths have required her to raise two children as an octogenarian herself.
When the children’s mother died, the octogenarian grandmother asked my nonegarian cousin (her aunt) if they might be able to have a memorial service in her livingroom, and she agreed. They wanted something small. And so Patricia (not her real name) hosted a funeral and in the course of serving refreshments afterwards, she got to know the two children. Wherever they live with their grandmother, there is no place to ride their bikes, so P invited them to bring them to her house on Saturdays and bike around her cul-de-sac. P also learned about other small things the children needed – apart from material things: a place to take a break from their grandmother’s house, etc. And she’s stepped in to offer support. “I want them to know they have a family.”
This is the fundamental task of the people of God: to remind people that they have a family. We need people who make us feel proud and comforted and loved. Sometimes we are related by blood. Sometimes we are related by marriage. Sometimes we are related by choice. Sometimes we are related by sheer providence.
I recently reread Donna Hicks’ books – Dignity – and she lifts up the notion that “honoring people’s dignity is the easiest and fastest way to bring out the best in them.” This is an essential learning for bosses, teachers, colleagues, parents, and – of course – pastors.
Everyone needs to know that they have a family. Part of our calling is being that family when we can do it.
About the image: It’s a copyright free photo of somebody else’s family, but we looked like that – all white, lots of kids, gathering regularly for the family reunion. Today, our reunion photos include cousins who are black and brown along with the white ones, thanks be to God.