GYLI Team Blog: Erin on Family
Our last blog post spoke of belonging as a responsibility to push back on systems and structures without repercussions. This month, we turn to give thanks and appreciation for that which we are grateful, in this season of Thanksgiving. For me, that is family; there’s no place better to experience a sense of belonging.
But what is family, and, more specifically, for GYLI, how does family lay the foundation for all that we aspire to do? My family–my GYLI family–is not defined by a certain location or blood relation. It’s organic and lives within. It’s more verb than noun. In family, we have the opportunity to create a place of belonging. It’s purposeful.
When you put the work in, when the seeds are sown, the harvest is joyous. There is time for play, for silliness. We can laugh together while laughing at one another because it’s a safe space. Our flaws are aired and become endearing idiosyncrasies. It reminds me of a line in a book from my childhood, one that set me on my path as a reader–Lois Lowry’s The Giver. It goes, “I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid.”
Being strangely you is being boldly authentic. Family is where we belong, and we’ve got to have the strength of character to be seen and take the responsibility of seeing others. In that comfort and joy of belonging, we must open our hearts and our circle to include the strange, the other.
When we do that, the doors open and connections are made. Your family expands with your generosity of spirit. As it did for me today, on a whim, when I said yes to a request for a ride from seven freshmen and sophomore boys wanting to go to the movies. Not just any movie, these young men were determined to see Frozen II.
I was asked, I want to believe, because they knew they could trust me not to judge. They filled my heart full as I was serenaded the whole drive there with a silly rendition of Let it Go. Their joy, their enthusiasm, and openness with each other to be fully present in the moment left no place for fear or shame. They belonged with me and I with them, and in that moment we were family.
We have to create these moments. We have to say yes and do the things that bring us together. Something I’m always saying yes to is going to the theater with my husband. We recently had the good fortune to see a play called The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. In it, there’s a funny line that stays with me – “I hear you listening.”
It’s so simple, a clever play on words and actions. But it gets at the crux of the truth. To create that Family of Belonging, we must first build it – and it will come. Listen because you care. Care enough to listen. Trust to build relationships, which develop by experiencing trust. Be heard and hear that others are listening. And with grace, we hold onto that truth. Let this be the GYLI tradition.
What traditions bring your family together? This Thursday, my family will gather – the six of us as pictured here, Jamal, Jaiyenan, Keyra, Djasahn, Salajan, and me.
Before we break bread, we’ll have a moment of silence, a Quaker tradition we’ve embraced and shaped to be our own. From the quiet, our thoughts percolate and resound deep feeling that we’re moved to bring into the light and share. It’s beautiful what comes out when we allow time for the stillness to work.
In the office, our GYLI family is forging its own traditions–a gourmet chocolate bar, preferably from Costa Rica, split into pieces by our team. And with each square, we share what we’re grateful for. Around a work table, around a bonfire, it doesn’t really matter where we circle. When we open our hearts to be heard, we’re acknowledging that house of belonging. Our job is to be heard listening.
Another of my favorite books, Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, captures that essence of family – yours, mine, and our shared GYLI one:
Can I say?
It’s like the song of a family where everything’s always alright, it’s a song of belonging that makes you belong just by hearing it, it’s a song that’ll always take care of you and never leave you. If you have a heart, it breaks, if you have a heart that’s broken, it fixes.”
Listen to your song, revel in the warmth, take time to care, be joyfully silly, and grow your GYLI Family. Happy Thanksgiving.