As school and mortgage payment demanded I be at home this holiday instead of with family in Michigan, I was sharing holiday cheer over the phone most of the day. On a particular conversation I was asked if I was thankful not to be [with the family] in Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday. That struck me in an odd way because I had genuinely not felt like I was away from anything. Anyway, there’s truth in the profoundness of the most simple questions so I gave this more thought.
My family is in Michigan and runs the full gamut of the political and religious spectrum and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on many issues. Communication at its most effective is typically full duplex–conversation between two at the same time–and so it can often be that the loudest is simply the one with the floor and when more than two are present it makes for very loud communication. Because of the diverse experiences and opinions of each family member, misunderstandings occur and sometimes the misunderstandings escalate into conflicts. When conflict occurs, it might as well be that we each speak entirely different languages. Add to that the generally passionate nature of my family members and you get some pretty heated debate.
The family doesn’t all live together. They each have their own comfortable parts of land and generally stay in their own neighborhood. They gather to meet the political, social and religious obligation of events like Thanksgiving holiday. Protocol and pageantry are involved in their lives this way in as much as was taught to them by previous generations, and rest assured the previous generations of my family would rate even more colorful, charismatic, and, um, creatively-behaved. A modern art-like contrast of beautiful memories and baggage.
Over the course of a few months, through email, I’ve communicated myself to people. I like to stimulate thought, inspire people, and engage others. I also like to talk. Common throughout my email is a theme of the larger part and one’s place in and responsibility to that part–the extended or human family. I have a tendency to see myself and others somehow connected together and for a reason that is greater than the sum of our parts, and that fuels a great part of who I am and what I want to do with the next day of my life. Against all likelihood, I tend to look for common ties or shared experience in people. But why? Why would someone see such peculiar relativity and relation between himself and folks from Bangalore, Berlin and Beijing? Why would someone be equally comfortable and uncomfortable with the challenges of cross-cultural communication as with a conversation with his brother, grandfather, niece or nephew?
I am thankless not to be with my family for Thanksgiving or any day and I suggest that is a fundamental impossibility. I think we live in a world that is quite similar to my immediate family, and if it weren’t for my immediate family, I would not so willingly seek to understand the larger family around me and my relation to it. Give credit where credit is due; it is my family in Michigan that opened my eyes to the differences between people. From my immediate family I learned respect for the differences in people. It is my immediate family who demonstrated the challenges and revealed the vital importance of communication. My family in Michigan has been a model for the world in which I live, and for that reason it is a natural step for me to look to the world and say with a certain degree of comfort that, anywhere and at anytime, I am always with family.