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Chip Hill


What is a family? Well, the common definition would be blood relatives. Sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and so on. With the requirement that we are “connected by blood,” the immediate family can be extended to a tree of relatives going back in time as far as genealogy and DNA testing can take us. So, it is a collection of people, uniquely connected by DNA, names, places and events. It has a (mostly) biological context, so I’m choosing to talk about the word in a way that is “higher” than when the word is used to describe other associations, like a church family or team family. And…spoiler alert…I’m choosing to talk about the positive aspects of family that may not be present with a particularly dysfunctional family.

So, what really is family? I’d like to think it is more than just people connected to each other as described above. To provide an analogy, I’ll use a “family” example that I just said I wouldn’t talk about, i.e., a team you belong to. If your association with a team, any team, goes on for a significant period of time, generates close friendships, and results in the group coordinating efforts toward a common goal, there is a pleasurable sense of comfort and solidarity that encourages you to stay connected to that team. That is because you and every other member of that team has something, or more probably somethings, in common.

Now think about that feeling of “belongingness.”  Strengthen it, and then associate it with all your biological family antecedents and what they have contributed, going back for all time. This “blood” connection involves you in something much greater than a common-cause group. It involves you in a common-DNA group. “We are family” means we are unique and we love each other by instinct. We share the good and accept and try to lift up the bad. The bonds we share give the ultimate sense of comfort and solidarity. We try to learn our history and we develop traditions that strengthen these bonds for the present. And we treasure the next generation that carries our DNA into the future. Given all these things, the family can be a tremendous source of grounding and direction in the noisy environment most of us live in. We would do well to remind ourselves of this periodically and enjoy our families while we can. Okay?