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Kin folks as far as the eye can see

Have you ever really wondered where it is you are from? How did your folks come to be in this place or how did you get to where you are? Can you point to some place and say that there is home?
When I think of home its not the house I live in, in my waking moments I think back to the valley below the Gravelly Spur, or the little house my grandparents lived in near Tunnel Hill. In sleep it’s the little brick house in Northeast Atlanta where my childhood adventures brought great pains to my parents.
It is really amazing how today thanks to the internet, we can know more about the people that came before us, honor their contributions or learn from their mistakes.
Have you considered that upon your back you carry the hopes and dreams of generations of people who struggled through famine, disease, war, oppression, endless hours of labor? All of their years of faith in God, effort, sometimes sacrifice, in some cases even martyrdom is now upon you to carry the family’s banner passing it to the next generation.
That is a heavy weight to consider as we lean back in our leather recliner grasping tightly to the remote flipping through the channels hoping for something to watch. Oh, look there’s “Braveheart,” so you watch a few minutes of the carnage depicted that some of our ancestors endured; flip a few more channels and there’s “Dances with Wolves.” Then you watch some of the cruelty some of our ancestors inflicted upon others. A couple of more channels over is “Gettysburg” and there we see brother against brother fighting for their lives in the War Between the States.
There are so many epic struggles in history upon which our peoples stood on one side or the other, sometimes taking up arms, sometimes just trying to survive as the world careened out of control around them.
Family experiences help to shape us into whom we become in life. Sometimes we choose not to pay attention to those stories dismissing them as useless nonsense. It is amazing how each generation struggles through the same issues: putting a roof over one’s head; clothes on one’s back, food on the table and paying the bills. Most of this is accomplished by one simple teaching — work hard and with God’s help you will succeed.
These are the basics in every generation’s experience, its what we bring to the table beyond these basics that help to give a family a sense of accomplishment.
Families are forever linked together by blood but they also share a history, they may not always see eye-to-eye but as time marches on from one generation to the next, the question is what are you passing along.
In some families, they see this as a gift of property; in others, it’s simply the gift of love and caring that stays with one’s family long after you have stepped through to meet God.
Does blood alone make one family — no, not always, in order to be family, there are other attributes that must be there. A sense of caring, love, fair play and mutual respect are a start. But as a basis the shared experiences of those that came before will always connect those who carry a bit of their ancestors within them.
I was raised in a family where kin folks cared about each other, they helped all they could, didn’t always agree but usually ironed out those differences especially following a gentile tongue lashing by the most senior member of the family reminding them that differences are usually petty compared to the big painting that reaches back through the years.
Hardly a month goes by that I am not blessed with talking with a relative I never met before. Someone who in days past might be called second cousin or third cousin, twice removed. If my Grandma Allie were still here, she would tell me exactly how we were related and then share some bit of family memories about their folks. Of course, she came up in a time that really all kinfolks had been each other and the times they shared.
In this world where everything moves so fast, I encourage you to pass along the wisdom of the generations in every way you can find because we are the standard bearers for all those behind us but more importantly for those ahead of us. We are in a unique time when families are together, hopefully checking on older relatives by phone or computers who are isolating. This is a perfect time to pass the time by collecting the family stories and setting them down for generations to come.

Family ties won’t be broken

The importance of one’s family connections is something that I believe we are losing in America.
With each generation there are fewer individuals who live close to their extended families, unlike the days when grandma and grandpa lived just in the next room or uncles, aunts and cousins were a short walk down the road.
Many Americans today do not really know the members of their extended family. We spend a few awkward moments together at funerals, family reunions, Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings and then off we go back to our own lives.
As families build lives miles away from their home many grasp the anonymity of their new surroundings with fervor, often dreading when a distant family member might drop in, disrupting their lives.
Despite the fact that my parents chose to move away from their homes to build a life for themselves in Atlanta, I grew up in a home where our door was open to members of both my mother’s and father’s families. It was not unusual for there to be cousins stretched out on quilted pallets sleeping on the living room floor; uncles rummaging through the refrigerator for green dill pickles as a late night snack; aunts blanching red tomatoes from the garden in the kitchen; or distant kin moving in for an extended stay while they looked for a job or planned a new start.
Because of the time I spent with these people growing up, I feel a much closer connection to them; the shared experiences make chance meetings and gatherings less of a strain today.
It was not unusual for my Mom to get up and start cooking a batch of turnip greens, cornbread and some fried chicken, while cleaning the house from end to end. When asked why she was doing it, she would say “so and so” will be here directly. Sure enough, after a while they would knock at the door. My Mom has a second sense about that. With no forewarning she knew some relative was on their way.
Sundays were a big visiting day. It was not unusual for Uncle Harvey, Aunt Lois and all their kids to load up in the car and be knocking at our door before dinner. Sometimes Grandma Allie and Grandpa Jesse would come along for the ride.
Us cousins would spend the afternoon playing as the folks caught up on all the family news. We might ride over to the airport to watch the planes land or go downtown to sight see. We would eat dinner, and then whomever was visiting would load up in the car and head back up to the mountains of Georgia or Tennessee.
I remember one trip when Uncle Harvey and family came down to see Joe Don Baker in “Walking Tall.” Of course, us kids were not old enough to go to the drive-in and see it so we had a sleepover instead, while most of the adults took in the hit movie.
Just like their visits there, we also visited regularly. Despite the distance it was like we were one family experiencing life together rather than living separate lives and putting up with one another for a few hours at the holidays.
God has called many of those family members for an extended stay at his house. While they are absent here, the experiences still live within me, giving me a sense of the extended family even if there are fewer of them now on this side than there once was.
The stories they told of relatives I never knew made those people alive to me. Through those stories many of my characters come to life on the page in columns and in scripts.
As each holiday rolls by, take the time to experience more than just the ordinary. Help create an experience that will last for yourself and your children throughout the lifetime. It is the shared moments of life that will make the basis for what we know as family.
If we as a country do not work to strengthen our families individually, what will the future hold for the American family as a whole? I guess we will be a country of individuals seeking a group in which to belong. We can only hope those groups aren’t exclusively on social media.