I have often wondered on the lives of the people I meet or read about and in particular the dynamics surrounding their familial relationships.
It would seem to me that the more blessed the person in wealth, ability, gift or talent, the more ravaged the family life appeared. I wondered whether this meant that a sacrifice of sorts had to take place. The message being that one was not able to be successful in all realms.
Did this then mean that one had to reconcile with a lower ceiling of achievement in order to maintain a healthy balance? What was one to do with dreams and ambition? These questions and thoughts were important to me, because of the priority that I place family and friends over my life. God, family/friends in this order, take precedence over anything I am or ever hope to be. They have and are always going to be a part of what God uses to define me as will later be seen.
I was born and lived in Kenya, Africa for a significant portion of my life, and this means a few things in the discourse of family and relationships. In Africa, you are born into family. You are not the niece, nephew, friend, or goddaughter of so and so; you are the daughter and son of every member of the nuclear, extended family and friends, period.
You grow up playing outside with your siblings, cousins, neighbors, your neighbors’ cousins and your friends’ friends. Everyone automatically becomes part of your family, as you become part of their family. If you have toys you bring people into your home, or you take your toys out to play with others. When it is time for meals, no child is left hungry because there is always a home. Each child becomes each family’s responsibility, so that at any time and place, a child is aware that his/her actions are accountable to everyone.
I will give you an example. There was a time when I was about five years old that I decided that I wanted to see my mother at her work. She used to come home for lunch, and this particular day, after she left and went back to work, I decided to set off after her. About ten minutes away from the flats we lived in was a kiosk at the corner of an intersection. The storekeeper observed me walking ostensibly along the busy roads before stopping me to ask where I thought I was going. I replied that I was going to my mother’s workplace. That was officially the end of my plans. I was told to sit, and given a lollipop, while the storekeeper contacted my aunt to pick me up and take me home.
The storekeeper was my father that day. He did not have to do anything other than sell his wares, however, the houses, flats and going-ons around that neighborhood were his business. He made it his responsibility to know the families he sold to, to care for their welfare, to help watch over their children, for in essence, this was his home too. I was obedient to this man, for I respected him as my elder.
I grew up in a small nuclear family surrounded by a very large extended family on both parents’ side. I was blessed and fortunate to have grown up with a good chunk of my family members, so much so that, my sibling and cousins were my best friends, the people I could be anyone and anything to for not only were they family but my friends. My friends are their friends and vice-versa.
This is the environment in which I grew up in, in that any of my friends, can visit any one of my relatives, without my physically being there or having any knowledge of such visit. I can do the same with any one of my friends’ family members, for I belong to them. You may then get a sense around my valuation of family/friends and the importance of relationships to me.
In Canada, I translated my upbringing into the number of people that I would bring to the house, or the family members I would introduce to my friends. My mother once remarked that for as long as she can remember, I have always surrounded myself with people. I am confident enough to say that what I discovered over the years was that people surrounded me. I could have a cardboard for a living space, but this space will always be crowded, and I will have it no other way.
I believe that what I do, is bring and foster the spirit of family to my surrounding, for what I believe family is supposed to do, is be that place in which there is no judgment, there is love, peace, happiness, laughter and sister/brotherhood. It does not matter what the rest of the world is telling you, I believe in what family should be showing you. This is sadly more of an ideal we strive to create in our world, more so than live it as much as we would like to.
In wondering what sacrifices I would have to make in order to be successful, and have stable and fruitful relationships, God taught me this:
1) It is not my job to judge. Whatever stage in life people are in, it is their journey, not mine. What I can do, is simply be the person that I have been and aspire to be, which is a motivator, a listener, a friend. I can pray before I open my mouth, so that what comes out is not my own wishes I am portraying on them. I can be that safe haven I believe in.
2) It is not my job to discriminate. I am not God so I do not get to decide who will be a part of my life and in what way. What God is creating in and of me will automatically take care of those details for me. I do not get to decide that one person’s point of view holds more value than the other, that one person has nothing to offer. I can rest assured that who I am and becoming, will weed out those who are not meant to be, and keep those who were always in the plan for me.
3) It is not my job to retaliate. I listen, I love, I believe, I include and I forgive. Unfortunately, that is not what some of my family members and/or friends do for me. Whereas I have many opportunities to retaliate hurt feelings with words at the tip of my tongue, and a very cold shoulder I previously mastered and used as if it were air, I know that that is not my job. I cannot force people to see what they do not want to see, what they are not ready to see, what they have chosen not to see. I cannot force anyone to accept love, believe in each other, or not be selfish with their “best intentions”. What will happen will happen, for just below love, is free will and I am not to hold myself hostage for what others choose to think, say and do with their lives. I can only watch in tears and pray for the selfishness to end, while I let go and live my own life.
I do not have to make any sacrifices. I can only do what I am to do, and trust that God will take care of the rest. I also have to know that it does not matter what good plans He and I have for people, we do not override their free will. All I can do, is trust that if I work on what I am to do, and not worry about sustaining or resurrecting dead and dying relationships; if I remember never to judge, discriminate and retaliate, whenever, however, whomever, will always have a place to call home, and a family, in me.