The word “Family” can be an interesting.

It can be defined in many different ways.

While so many of us remain at a distance, during the pandemic, the thoughts of family have taken a new priority for many people.

Some are home with family.  Some are discovering what it feels like to be spending much more time with family members than they had previously.  Some are learning new rhythms and ways to coexist during times once spent in different spaces.

Some families are doing more together than they have in a long time.  Some are finding a re-energized and renewed joy in spending time with those they have loved so dearly.

Some are feeling very blessed by the chance to grow even closer to family.

But there are also people that see this new closeness as a struggle.  Some have had to spend more time in unhealthy situations.

While some have experienced happiness being together more with family, others have spent more time arguing and fighting. While many are feeling closer to family, many others are feeling even more distant.

I pray for the ones that have been placed in unhappy circumstances.  I pray for those in unhappy families. For the ones feeling trapped or even abused.  I pray for the ones that define the word “family,” as people one has to be with, rather than people one wants to be with.

If you look at the first definition, according to Webster’s Dictionary, of the word “Family,” you would see family defined as; “The basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children.”

That’s a definition that can sometimes make one feel a bit locked in.  In many cases, this definition makes us think of happy people.  Happy units.  Loving parents raising lovely children.  For some, this definition really hits home.  They have had wonderful upbringings with parents that always assured them they were loved.  Siblings that were supportive of each other.  A “unit” that was and remains close and enjoyable.  While no family is perfect, some have grown up in homes for which they are very grateful.

But for some, a definition like this can be a cause of sadness that makes one feel a bit left out of tradition.  One that does not reflect what family is to them.  There are many people that just didn’t have the greatest family experience.  Some did not have “traditional” parents.  Some did not feel loved by people in their family.  Some grew up questioning where they fit in.  Some have been in families that were not loving, leading them to grown up questioning whether they were loveable.

This might be why I prefer the second definition offered by Webster’s; “Any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family.”

The longer I have lived and the more I have experienced in life, the more I like words like “various.” This one word offers some respite to those that have never felt that their experiences fit into the narrower view we have given to the word “family.”

For many that have often felt trapped or in some way harmed, they can allow themselves to place the word, “family,” where they feel, is better deserving of this definition.  We can place the word “family,” where we feel safe.  Where we feel close.  Where we feel loved.

In my life, I have met many people.   People that have been abused.  People that have felt alone.  People that have felt different.  People that have felt unloved.  People needing a truly loving family.

During our time of distancing and isolation, I pray for the ones who are with loving families.  I pray for the ones grieving and missing their loving families.  And I pray for the many that are seeking and searching for a loving family.

And I offer my own take on defining what family is.

I think the word family is very similar to the word friend.

A true friend is someone that loves us for who we are.  One that values our place in this world.  One that helps protect us from the harm of others and from the harm of ourselves.  Someone who is there for us, and someone we are there for.

There can be differences in friendships.  Even disagreements.  Even arguments.  But between true friends, there is communication, honesty, respect and above all else, there is love.

I think this definition also applies very closely to the word neighbor.

Wherever you are spending your time, I pray that you are safe.  I pray for your happiness.  And I pray you are feeling loved.

I pray that you are finding ways to be with people that love and cherish you just as you are. I pray that you are finding ways to feel close with family.

In all the wonderfully “various” ways we can define the word “family” to be.