With the holidays approaching, many of us travel to be among our families, distant in physical proximity so often today. As we do, it may be worthwhile to ponder the foundation of family.
A family is much like a building. A building of strength has a foundation strong enough to bear the challenges of life -- defeat, disappointment, failure -- yet a roof protective enough to contain us when success or individual gain fuels a sense of pride. The walls need be transparent enough that our inward experiences are attuned to outward circumstances but solid enough to offer a sanctuary from the exterior world.
Our buildings differ greatly in size, shape and materials, but their strength is determined by unconditional or authentic love. Even if tragedy were to strike -- as an earthquake, flood or fire might damage a building -- a family rooted in love transcends it. Family love lives well beyond the boundaries of space and time.
I look at the strength of my own family love for one another in the simple act of shopping for Christmas gifts. It's an ongoing process of making lists, sharing ideas, and selecting just the right things. It is not about the money spent, the item chosen or the gift shared, but rather in the conscious act of attention gift-giving entails.
Each selection requires a careful consideration of the needs and desires of another, the creative act of thinking what the other person might like, and the shared experience of giving and receiving.
This year our family has expanded as boyfriends and girlfriends enter the building and new walls, doors and rooms are constructed to accommodate them. Perhaps the most interesting part of it all is that the choices our now adult children are making to enrich this building are so strong in foundation.
Love -- a word that at times is not given its due because of its so many variants (i.e. I love coffee, I loved that movie vs. I love you), but Love is the essence of a strong family. Without it the structure can withstand little.
I grew up in a façade of a house -- one with love painted boldly on its exterior but with little held within. I discovered authentic love later in life and understood its strength as my husband and I build our own home.
A family -- whatever its configuration -- arises from authentic or unconditional Love -- and the building created is home. The well-known idiom bears repeating as 2010 comes to a close.
Home Is Where the Heart Is.
Follow Susan Smalley, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/suesmalley