Friends and Family
I have a family. I have no friends.
Let’s start with family.
If family is husband/wife, I’ve had a family for over thirty years. But if a “real” family is mom/dad/kids it’s only been around seven years, six years if the family is “legal,” as in the kids are ours and not temporary residents.
My family is my world, my life, my motivation. The two little kids and I spend day after day together. My oldest girl, well, she’s a problem. She’s handicapped from her previous life in hell and she’s sixteen so figure it out.
My wife is my sunrise and sunset. She is my heart beat. Without her I would be nothing… not that I’m all that much anyway.
In dealing with our oldest and problems caused by her baggage yesterday we had a discussion about what family is. She’s done things lately that have isolated her from the family and implied she might not want to be part of the family. But she writes little notes and says she does. I explained to her what “family” means:
“Family,” I said, “is giving. Family is not having all members look to you but it is you looking to all other members. Family is giving your life away to the other members and all members giving their lives to each other. That is family. Anything less is just a bunch of people living in the same house.”
Of all the things we’ve lost as Americans it is a sense of family. This is especially and painfully true about white America though from what I see it’s a disease that has infected most races and communities in this country. Just look at how Television portrays family today and then go back to the fifties and sixties and see how different the shows were then. From Ozie and Harriet to All in the Family to Married With Children, what a difference.
Family. It’s a beautiful word. It’s not always a beautiful reality. The word represents an endangered species in these modern times. I told my daughter we want her to be part of the family, to be a part of the whole that lives within this house. But being part of a family is a choice to give self to others.
In a vast majority of homes in this country families do not exist. There are man/woman/kids, or some combination thereof, but not family. Kids’ rooms have TV’s and X’box games, parents have their on TV, a few computers are sprinkled around, CD players, DVD players, cell phones, MP3 players and assorted other entertainment devices occupy the time for all the people in the house. Rare are the times spent together. Worse, there is no sense of attachment or giving.
Our house is not one big “Kum-bah-ya” sing along. My wife and I have computers we use frequently. Kids play while I am busy. But bedrooms are absent almost all the devices that cause distractions or keep kids hidden away from the rest of the family. We all watch TV together. And we go places. Mostly, though, I preach the gospel of family. We’re not perfect but the kids love each other, we love them, and all loves each other. My wife and I work to construct a family, not destruct one.
So I have family and it is all I need.
I was listening yesterday to a PBS news show, Bill Moyers I think, during which the guy who wrote the book The Evolution of God was being interviewed. I forget his name. The book sounds interesting. One thing he said is that he believed the concept of God grew in part as an element in building friendships. Something like that. Believing in a deity helped build relationships. The author said, “friendless people do not do well.” Indeed.
I thought about his words. What does “do well” mean? “Do well” in relation to what? Success? Happiness? Faith? Could he be more specific?
If there is a difference between “friends” and “family” then I am entirely friendless. All I have is my family. I have been friendless for a very long time. There are reasons.
People find and make friends in various ways. Friends meet in the workplace or school, in church, in some social setting, or in neighborhoods. Since I lack all these options I have hardly had an opportunity to meet and greet.
My work was sacrificed for my family. In 2003 I was fired when I asked for a few hours to take our new foster kids to the doctor. I have been kid keeper ever since.
I have not attended a church in a decade regularly nor been near one in many years. I would have no reason to go any longer since I am not a Christian but a Buddhist. I wish there was a temple nearby but there is not so my religious practice, such as it is, is a solo one.
My wife and I have never been social butterflies. I’m not much of a joiner, not a sports fan, nor are there any other organizations we are a part of. We were part of the foster care system for a while and met with other foster parents but since our adoption we have not been part of that either. Foster care participation proved more beneficial to my wife in making friends than it did for me. Not many men are in the position I am in, most leave that stuff to the women. Socializing with married women isn’t quite acceptable for a married man like myself. So while my wife had friends I had acquaintances.
We do not live in a neighborhood. Our house is isolated. There are houses nearby but there is no sense of community around them whatsoever. They’re filled with an assortment of people whom I do not know with names I do not know with backgrounds I do not know. There is one neighbor who is a foster adopt parent and another a couple older than we who keep to themselves but otherwise, neighbors are all strangers. The guy across the street is a snobbish white headed fellow who greets people with scowls or indifference. I’ve been told there are two registered sex offenders living close. And considering this is a low income minority part of town there’s many Hispanics and not too far away plenty of African Americans, but again, this ain’t a community.
So I am socially isolated.
I could “go out” and look for friends but to what end and for what purpose?
I went to a job search seminar once with the Texas Workforce Center or its previous incarnation. The majority of what they taught was how to use friends to get what you want. In fact, it was a course on how to make friends so those friends can get you a job. I was apalled. A good title for the seminar would have been “how to create friends and use them for yourself.” What a terrible idea of what friends should be. I do not believe in using friends for personal gain. That is not what a friend is.
I’ve had friends in the past. I must admit that those friends turned out, almost to a person, entirely untrustworthy. My friends were all wrapped up in my religious practice and when I “strayed” from the practice the friends strayed from me. I had friends at work. The last time I had friends at work they promised to stand with me against a horrid, cruel supervisor but in the end left me hanging in the wind. They were not true friends. I stuck up for them all in filing a complaint on their behalf. They were too cowardly to return the favor. I lost that job, the one I treasured the most.
Thus friends have never proven to be friends.
I get lonely sometimes. I like to talk and there’s nobody to listen. I used to try and find friends online but I realized after many years that a friend in a far off place is nice but not the same. Online friends force me to stay at the computer more than I should in order to grow and maintain the friendship. I did that before we had kids. More and more, however, I’m trying to walk away from the computer and be with the family. Family comes before friends.
Finally, when it comes to finding friends I have no clue about how to find like minded people around here. I’ve lamented on this situation before. I am not liberal in the specific sense but I am quite opposed to the political views of the local majority. I am not Christian and this area is not only predominantly Christian but dominantly Christian, meaning everything is Christianized. Christian belief, practice and rhetoric permeate the entire place. As a Buddhist I am not just left out but viewed as pagan/lost/evil, depending upon whom you ask. Even my sister and brother keep their distance. My sister’s son is openly contemptuous of my political and religious beliefs. He is typical.
My world is family, not friends. I can live with that. I can because as I’ve written on this post my kids have been impatiently waiting for me to finish. They’ve come by for hugs and my little girl hung on me for a while as she does often. We ARE family. Family is all I need.
If all of America would discover the joy of family again and extend that sense of family to friendships, giving rather than getting, what a wonderful and peaceful world this would be.
No comments yet.