Mind Matters — Reflections on Family As I Travel with Family

Traveling with family for the holiday vacation, I went to Mass on the “Feast of the Holy Family.” The church, in San Luis Obispo, California, is one of the missions found by Padre Junipero Serra in the 1700’s. Amidst this history, the priest brought us to the present moment through his own family roots.

“Father Jim” described how as a boy, because one of his parents was Canadian Native American, he spent summers on a reservation. When he was home with his Anglo nuclear family, he learned the rules of that family with one mother and one father. However, on the reservation, he was taught that the family was the entire community so that every elder was to be listened to, and everyone younger was to be cared for!

This priest reminded the congregation that today the family comes in many forms—single parents, intentional families, blended families, same sex parents (not directly mentioned, but surely alluded to), grandparents raising their children’s children, and so on. He noted that, as parents age, the burden of their care may become overwhelming for a family. He also stressed how the family, in whatever configuration it forms, needs support of the wider community. What defines a family is care for each other. Yet there needs to be a community of care that extends to all as well.

A recent article in The Atlantic (November, 2013), “Why We Fight, and Can We Stop?” by Robert Wright discussed the work of psychologist Joshua Greene on the moral issues of good and evil, and emotion versus reason. The article, distilled to its essence, may be this: That perhaps doing good and being kind rests on perceiving the other not as other but as one of “us.” We do to others what they don’t want done to them for the very fact of their otherness. Pie in the sky perhaps, but the less we only consider “our tribe” as human and instead embrace each other as being together on this ark called earth, the better off we will all be. Or as the priest reminded us, we are all family and we need to act—and enact—on that.

Now there’s a big resolution for the New Year!