Over the past couple of years, there has been great debate over what constitutes a “family” or “family members.” I can tell you that in the home where I grew up, anyone could be family on any given day.
My mother brought home what I have often called “strays.” Nope, my folks aren’t cat lovers, they are people lovers. Mom or Poppa would notice someone who needed family and invited them to join ours for a day or longer. It was fascinating; we kids never knew who was going to be staying at our house or eating at our table.
One summer, we had a second “Jim” living with us. (The first Jim is my amazing older brother.) Jim2 slept in the sewing room, which was really just a nook with a curtain off the upstairs hall. My recollection is that Jim2 was longer than the bed and his feet stuck out when he slept. Toward the end of the summer, Jim2 left for a few days to visit his folks. His mom was shocked that he knew how to cook his own breakfast. Jim2 explained that one morning in our home, Mom had shown him where the cereal and eggs were; he could eat what he pleased. Jim2 watched Mom cook eggs a couple of times and one morning he decided to cook them for himself; from then on, he was self-sufficient.
Another time, we had 4 or 5 “seminary boys” at the house for Easter. (I should explain that these were young men studying for the ministry. Someone accused my Mother of inviting seminary boys over as potential husbands for us girls. We thought that was hilarious; having these guys at our house made us totally uninterested in them!) Anyway, on this Easter Sunday, the guys started tossing hard boiled eggs across the living room. The distances between catcher and thrower kept increasing. Mom felt very comfortable in chastising them just like she did her own kids and the frivolity ceased. Those guys knew that they were family that day.
Mom and Poppa would sometimes bring Rev. Garrett home for Sunday dinner. He was an elderly, retired preacher who enjoyed a home-cooked meal. We kids were shocked when one day he picked up the gravy ladle and put gravy over his entire plate, including the tossed salad. Poppa explained later that at the retirement home they probably didn’t allow him to eat gravy and that he was stocking up on it at our house.
When my folks trusted me and my younger sister to stay by ourselves for a weekend, they weren’t surprised to find a group of boys sleeping on the floor in our living room. The guys had been camping the night before the folks returned home and a huge rain storm hit; the boys knew that they could find shelter at the Mullins’ house. We girls never thought about not inviting them in out of the rain. I guess some other parents would have been upset about boys in the house; our folks wanted to know if we had offered them breakfast.
What’s my point? If you want to have a “family” this holiday season, you can have one. Just look for the person who would enjoy a cup of coffee. Find the family at the church or preschool who could use some extra gifts around the tree. I imagine that you know people who could use a baked lasagna (they don’t care if it is store bought!). There are kids who need a mentor and an older “sister” or “brother.” Some older man and woman would love to have you listen to their stories.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I am recommending that you be unsafe and to put life and home at risk. But, look around you. Don’t get too fancy or expect a crowd; keep it simple and answer real needs. Could your table bless one or two “strays” this holiday season?
“I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger.” (Job 29:16)