I remember that it was during those years when we spent long, leisurely summer afternoons sitting in the porch swing crocheting afghans when my mother made a statement that startled me and made me drop my crochet hook. We were talking about friends who had grown up in the community, known each other all of their lives, ultimately married and had recently welcomed their third grandchild into the family. My mother commented that it was through knowing people like this family that she came to realize there are good aspects to arranged marriages.
My mother was a deep thinker, and it often took me a long period of reflection on her words to come to a full understanding. In this case, it took me half a lifetime. She was pointing out that people who grow up among others who share the same value system and marry someone who is like-minded very often make strong unions. In some cultures, people attempt to achieve that goal by deliberately matching certain individuals to others. But in the case of our family friends, the marriage came about naturally and succeeded.
The memory of the conversation with my mother came about because a friend and her husband are about to celebrate the 40th annual reunion of their family and friends. Because they grew up in the same community together and their parents were friends, they have remained in that community with their family and friends for all these years. Every year as children are born, new members are added to the reunion. And although these friends and others have moved away from the old community, they return for the occasion and keep in touch throughout the year. The heartwarming thing is that they have enjoyed the support of their community throughout their lives, and, as it stands, this spirit of community will go on for years to come.
Having lived in several locations, I agree with my mother completely. When you enjoy the emotional support of your community even if you live away from it, a sense of well-being surrounds you. You’re never alone. There’s always a friend as near as your telephone. And somewhere lurking in the back of your mind is that inner knowledge that those who have known you longest and best are rooting for you. It’s hard to substitute that kind of loyalty.
Most of us have to build our communities by trial and error along the way. When we move away from the place where we grew up, we have to find people who share our values and begin to build relationships. If we are lucky, we find a place where our values are at home, and we meld into community. Eventually many of us succeed. We find the place where our heart wants to be.
But some people never do. They find themselves wandering from place to place, looking for somewhere to call home. Some of them even go back to the place of their birth only to find that progress has swallowed their roots.
In the end, most people take the middle ground, and when they can’t carry their roots with them, they manage to find ways to stay connected. Some families always go home for the holidays. Others take vacations with family and friends. I know families and friends who take turns maintaining long forgotten cemeteries where relatives are buried.
In this busy world, too often we forget to keep in touch with the basic things that make for quality lives. We forget the people who helped us become who we are and instilled in us those values that have helped us to succeed. That’s why sometimes we feel all alone, as if we live in a world all by ourselves.
My mother was trying to tell me that whatever inspires people to keep in touch with their roots is not all bad. It’s a lesson worth learning.
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