Thursday, April 21, 2016
R is for Respect
I’ve seen a few movies about families coming together for the holidays or other occasions that portray family members as eccentric, difficult or just different, and then create a lot of conflict between them. Screenplays often have conflict, otherwise it would be boring, so they say. I really hope your family reunion doesn’t have the conflicts that these movies often portray. Instead, think early about how to create a space for tolerance and acceptance and respect.
A friend of mine once said to me that my Mom seemed to her to be very accepting of diversity, loving each of her children for the unique individuals they turned out to be as they became adults and matured (and we are very different from one another). Perhaps that is where I got my strong convictions of tolerance and the honoring of diversity; from my Mom.
My Mom also had a rule she insisted be followed: No talking about religion or politics at the dinner table. Enjoy your food and let it be digested without upset. Good advice in an election year, and with tensions over those seeking safety in other countries for political and religious reasons.
What kind of atmosphere do you want to foster at your reunion? Everyone has a story, likes and dislikes, a preferred way of dressing and conducting themselves. Is your reunion gathering going to be accepting of a gay person, a transgender person, adoptive children, adoptive children or spouses of another race? People who have changed faiths? Add anything to this list that traditionally your family would find controversial.
When people get into heated arguments, red, angry faces blustering away at each other, the saying goes: take it outside. Now you don’t want any fistfights or embarrassing altercations at your reunion, but the thought of taking it outside gives pause to reflect on where and when disagreements could occur. A family reunion is a time to reflect on family history, where people came from, and if you design it right, where they’re going. That can’t be created in an atmosphere of tension and arguing. So leave the heated discussions for some other time.
If you choose to include some of the activities I have covered in my blog these past couple of weeks, I think you will create a more sharing and caring setting for everyone present. You no doubt have many great ideas yourself, or the brain storming of a family reunion-planning group will help develop the kind of activities that your unique family will embrace and remember for years to come.
I will close today’s blog post with a thought from my Family Reunion Keepsake Book, the Family Reunion Idea Library section: Be mindful that not everyone will share the same customs as the family grows and develops. For example, not everyone will share the same daily practices or religion. Respect and honor all present by giving each family a turn to share their own way of giving thanks before each meal.