Standing in a loosely formed clump was a group of people of varying ages, and sizes all dressed in purple t-shirts awaiting instructions from a woman who was clearly the leader of the pack. It was at the Richmond International Airport and they were all on their way to a family reunion at some far-off location across the country. Summertime is the season when families come together to reunite, feast, commemorate and celebrate their joys and sorrows, and the legacy they all share together as a family united by ancestral bloodlines. It is an important rite of passage for those who have never been or are meeting their “family” for the first time by birth, adoption or marriage. It is a way for the Elders of the family to pass down to the young folks the stories and the history of their relatives so that they, in turn, can pass it on to their children and their children’s children. It is an essential coming together to connect without social media, electronic media or telephone lines and re-establish the quintessential truth of legacy and the awesome responsibility that it holds.
Not all family gatherings are joyous because of the loss of loved ones and sometimes the sorrow of tragic endings. However, each gathering, whether in celebration or in grief, is a time for reconnection and an opportunity to mend breaches in relationship or to just clear up misunderstandings. Our family, no matter how large or small, holds for each of us an important element of our past, our present and is a great predictor of our future if we pay attention. With so many divisions in our country today and with the political climate being so toxic and adversarial, what we may need right now is some family time. We may need to talk to those within our own sphere of influence as recognition that we, in fact, are not individuals but a part of something much larger than ourselves. We have a responsibility to those who came before us to hold on to what has been bought with the price of sacrifice, courage and aspiration and to press forward to the greater calling of our potential as a people. Perhaps this “rugged individualism”, “me-myself”, and “America First” call to the nation is a device of division masked in a cloak of nationalism and isolationism? Families always work better together rather than in fractious factions that are more interested in individual interests than those that are best for the whole. We are better together. We are stronger together. And, we are greater together.
As we gather together over this summer season of reunions, weddings, and other occasions, let us come to the table of dialogue one with another and talk, honestly. Let us come to an agreement that unless we resolve to make peace with one another, in order to build this nation family as a collective unit, one family, one community at a time, we will utterly fail to fulfill the hopes and dreams of our ancestors and the legacy they forged for us. We are knit together by a collective history and that is a fact that we cannot escape no matter how we might try. Those who fought and died for freedom, for civil rights, for equal justice under the law will not let us rest until we step up into the fullness of those Freedoms and embrace the American Family we have declared ourselves to be with ALL its stars and stripes, colors, and creeds. Family dynamics can be difficult and it is not necessary for us to always agree, but the legacy bought with the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors means that we are inextricably bound one to another. Our fate, our rise or fall will depend upon how well we negotiate the legacy we have inherited and how willing we are to embrace the family we are in order to build the family we were destined to be.