For me, Western culture has this fascination with over-formalized labels and ties as they relate to the “family structure.” Growing up, to me a family and its labels was the mum, dad, 2.5 kids, and a dog. Throw in a grandparents situation, uncles, aunties and cousins and there comes together a nice little family tree (the structure junkie in me LOVES a good family tree!). That being said, growing up in the Nigerian diaspora (and I think for many people of non-western origins), the title “uncle” or “aunty” was to be bestowed upon any elder that was a part of my life.
I love the notion that the title of who is family knows no bounds. This idea has definitely been very salient for me going through this YAV journey. I consider my ’16-17 serving class to be my forever fam in many ways. We’re doing this crazy thing called mission together and even though we are spending almost all this 1st year of this journey apart, I don’t see how we’re NOT a family. We fight occasionally, we’ve broken and will continue to break bread with one another. I have my “nuclear” family; my parents, twin and bro. I consider my various faith communities in the States to be my family. I recently had dinner with one of my favorite humans, Beth (my home church’s CE Leader) and her hubs Paul. We were just chatting about my journey so far, and a thing that came up was the concept of our “Big Fat Tiny Presbyterian World” (what a WORLD it is!!).
I realize how lucky I am to have all the various networks and people to call my family. There are so many in our communities that don’t have strong family networks and struggle with issues of isolation and loneliness. During our orientation in Scotland, one of the things we were cautioned against was asking kids about their parents. In many of the communities we are working in, the “conventional” definitions of families aren’t super common. There’s a large percentage of grandparents raising kids. Asking a kid about their mom or dad, could potentially be not that considerate of a thing.
Smashing society’s standards of convention and normality is kind of what I think this year is about. We talked a lot about this during orientation at Stony Point. To do this work, undertake this mission, we must leave behind our conventional ways of conceptualizing not only family, but the world around us. From gender to vocations, fashion to education, the boxes and lines that we currently have constricted ourselves to just don’t fit anymore.
Moving pace a little, this past week, the Scotland YAVs journeyed to Gartmore House in Stirling (about 45mins away from Glasgow) for the Priority Areas Family Holiday. The middle of October is typically fall break in the schools, so kids are home for the week. About 80 people from Priority Area congregations all over Scotland converged in the 18th century country estate for a restful holiday week. The YAVs were tasked with leading the program for the 5-11 year olds. They gave us a run for our money, but WAY too much fun was had, so the energy and chaos that comes with being with tiny humans was super worth it (there may be a video floating around us YAVs leading the Revolution energizer…).
It was wonderful to spend time with these families and help aid in their week in activities of relaxation, rest and renewal. Here are some pics of our adventures this past week.
Wikipedia defines family as “in the context of human society, a family is a group of people affiliated either by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence or some combination of these.” That’s a definition I can get behind.
LASTLY, here’s my playlist. Songs about family (Rough Ryder’s Anthem is here as they are arguably one of my favorite hip hop collectives/families!). ENJOY!!