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Posted: March 4, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Morgan: Family matters

The word "family" usually evokes only the warmest and fondest feelings of which we are capable.

It means the parents to whom we are born and the siblings who come before or after, or maybe not at all.

It’s the home in which we grow up and learn the first lessons in life.

It means aunts, uncles, cousins of all degrees, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and increasingly stepbrothers and stepsisters, stepmothers and stepfathers, leading to step-grandparents, then rippling further and further out.

Then there is the "family" we choose to create for ourselves, the friends we pick to surround us, the circles in which we move.

For some people, this can be the "family" with ties and a support structure that was never enjoyed at home.

We all need family of one kind or another. We are pack animals, although the fiercely independent loner is the stuff of American legend.

I started out in a big family, two parents and eight brothers and sisters all together.

There are bigger families, granted, but eight at our house was plenty enough.

Being the oldest, I always had someone to "mother" when our own mother found herself stretched thin.

I still want to "mother" them but, funny thing, they’re all grown up with spouses, partners, children and grandchildren of their own and I’m not needed anymore.

Maybe that’s why "mothering" dogs and cats comes so easily to me. I’m a mother in search of a job.

Our patriarch has died, but our mom remains the pivot point for the still burgeoning Morgan family.

Seven of the eight original siblings remain, and now there are 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

This year will be a boomer. When two granddaughters married one year within four months of each other, we thought that was exciting. But this year, we’ll attend weddings for three grandchildren, and we think they’ve chosen well.

There will be plenty to celebrate as three young couples set sail on their own voyages, and for sure, they’ll be surrounded by a lot of family to witness their lives, to uphold and support them, to share their joys and absorb their aches.

But the fun’s not over. We’re also looking forward to the arrival of two new great-grandchildren. Come Christmas, it will be hard to gather in one place.

We are counseled in faith to consider that each individual is but another brother or sister, thereby expanding the reach of the family concept to individuals and peoples we’ll never know or meet.

The teaching is meant to encourage a belief that there are others far beyond our daily lives to whom we owe the love, care and respect we accord to our own biological brothers and sisters. For most of history, however, we’ve divided ourselves into "us" vs. "them."

It’s how nations rise and fall; it makes war easy. Then there are the "haves" and "have-nots." That leads to thinking that says "I’ve got mine, but you’re on your own." All the have-nots want is a chance to become the haves. (And doesn’t that make you think of rioting countries in North Africa?)

Right where we live and work, it’s easier for us to wrap our minds around the concept of friends and neighbors as "brothers and sisters." We share our lives and living spaces with the other residents of our towns and this county, and it’s safe to say we probably all want the same things: safety and security, productive work, good schools, a comfortable home, food and clean water, roads to get us where we want to go, and amenities like shopping, restaurants and recreation.

Having agreed on all that, then let’s just call ourselves a "family" and act like it. My actions affect you, and vice versa.

I had occasion to speak with one of this town’s respected businessmen last week. He’s a man committed to helping Newton County grow and become economically vibrant. He puts a lot of effort into the business community and environment, but he’s equally invested in what goes on in the faith and nonprofit segments of our community. His fingers if not his name are everywhere. I wanted to thank him for a particularly generous gift to a nonprofit.

He ducked his head and kicked at the ground not unlike a kid in a schoolyard. He said, "Oh, that’s all right. This is what it’s all about. We’ve just got to take care of each other."

This man "gets" the family concept.

 

Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.

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