We Are Family

I moved to Baltimore in the early 90’s and soon came to realize that the song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge was not very popular here. It was the theme song for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates who won the World Series by defeating the Baltimore Orioles. I still play it on occasions at neighborhood functions just for kicks.

Family, team, community are all synonyms for a group of people who care enough to share their gifts for one another’s benefit.  Interdependent players, coaches, parents, neighbors, and employees where everyone is inextricably bound to the success of the group. If you are being relational in any environment a family atmosphere is sure to emerge, including the workplace. I strongly prefer, and find more success, in family-centric companies.

Loving extended families don’t just happen because of being blood relatives, they take hard work and dedication. Same with teams and communities. We belong to each other with full acceptance as the rule. We need each other. We depend on each other. We affect each other. We don’t give our all to the game or the company, we give it to our team and family.

I am part of a large Irish Catholic family on my mother’s side, that is multi-generational and “all in” on the family concept. Events, celebrations, and parties will likely include many members of the family. We had family members drive 4 hours each way just to attend our daughters’ high school graduation parties. Because supporting, celebrating and sharing means that much in this family. We recently walked 3 miles out of our way, such that my daughters could tailgate before a football game with second and third cousins.

Fittingly, this blog is being posted on the birthday of my younger twin brothers. We have been mentored well by the generations before us and have a strong bond despite the distance that separates us. I find the song “Brother” by NEEDTOBREATHE provides a wonderful depiction of our relationship. An excerpt of the song’s lyrics:

Everybody needs someone beside em’ shining like a lighthouse from the sea

Brother let me be your shelter/Never leave you all alone

Brother let me be your fortress/When the night winds are driving on

Be the one to light the way/I could never take the world alone

I know that in my weakness I am stronger/It’s your love that brings me home

One of the deepest needs within people is belonging.  It feels good to belong. Belonging is natural. At one time people got their sense of community from their local family and neighborhoods. Today’s culture has families more dispersed and lifestyles so busy we hardly know our neighbors; and the emphasis within companies can become more transactional (“get it done”) than relational.

When teams, companies and even communities/nations are enjoying success, the need for a family environment is often overlooked. Talent and prosperity can cover up relational issues. However, when things get tough or there is a downturn, the strength of family type bonds gets groups through their struggles. A concern today is the divisiveness within our nation and communities that is extremely un-family like. There is a lack of civil discourse and no sense that “we are all in this together.” To me it is no surprise that this lack of community cohesiveness coincides with the advancement of technology and the rise of social media. Today people can function in isolation and anonymity more than ever before. We can work or shop from home, watch sporting events and movies in high definition from our coach, and launch vitriol filled comments from behind a screen name or avatar personality. Communal activities are on the decrease, face to face dialogue is less frequent.

In the New Testament we have the symbolic language of Paul and Jesus drawing upon the power and complex relationships within the family to convey the newly defined Christian community. There is a richness and power to all this language, even in the reality that families can be places of brokenness. Church communities serve as vital embodiments of “family” that can strengthen and expand the boundaries of traditional families.

The early church survived in part because it was a loving community. Christianity served as a revitalization movement in response to the chaos, fear, and misery of life in the urban Greco-Roman world. The church provided a new kind of social relationship making life more tolerable. To the homeless and impoverished, it offered charity as well as hope; for newcomers and strangers, it offered an immediate basis for attachment; to those affected by epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, it offered comfort and care; for orphans and widows, it provided a sense of family and safety.

When it matters most, I know I can count on family, friends, and even co-workers and members of my faith community to be present for me. I will be there for them as well. We profess to be one nation under God, indivisible with justice for all – all who are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. It is time we gave our all to that tenet. We are family.

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