Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflections on the family, otherwise known as the "anti-drug" (Part 3 of 3)

So what are some of the means available to us whereby we might support and build up the domestic family (I’ll use this term as an alternative to “nuclear family”)? There are places, sectors and people right in our midst that I think are pregnant with potential in this area:

Blood Relatives: If grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live in the same community or close by, that’s great. There’s your wider family support system right there (it’s not the only one that should be available, but it’s one of the best). Unfortunately, this is not always the case – in fact, quite often it is not. We live in a much more mobile society than those of the past, and consequently our domestic and extra-domestic family units do not always stay together. We have to come to terms with that.

Neighborhoods: Neighborhoods have tremendous potential, especially when they include families with young children. And yet how many people nowadays even know their neighbors? Unfamiliarity within the neighborhood is not uncommon, as I suggested (albeit indirectly) in part 2. Recognizing this, the Drug Free Communities Coalition has worked with neighborhoods in the recent past. But we can each take some responsibility for this on our own, in terms of getting to know our neighbors. Granted, there are some obstacles involved, but whatever little we can do could go a long way – even if it’s something as simple as having some leftover brownies we’re not going to eat, and going over to ask the next door neighbor if he/she would like some.

Churches: The parish has the potential to be not only an invaluable support system for the domestic family, but also a source of affirmation – that is, affirmation of the family and of what the family is all about. But I could pose this question to anyone reading this post (and to myself as well): How many people do you know at your church? On a typical Sunday morning (or Saturday evening, if that’s when your church meets for worship), would you know the person sitting in the pew in front of you? Or behind you?

I have visited some churches right here in Batavia where the community and family aspects of the faith-based life are very strong. This tends to be the case in smaller churches. The pastor is almost like another family member, the church community an extension of the family. Any time the domestic family has problems, they can turn to their “family in faith” for support, encouragement, and help.

Schools: First of all, parents and teachers are partners. Both are involved – not equally, of course, but surely – in the development of children. Both are helping to shape the generation that will be the future of our society. Secondly, kids from many families come together to take part in the school community. Parents of children in the same classroom often network and form lasting relationships (sometimes the teachers even get in on that, too). The parent-child, student-teacher, teacher-parent relationships are complex, sometimes frustrating, and always interesting; how much more so are the student-to-student and family-to-family relationships?

The opportunities for communal fosterage in the schools are so diverse that I could subdivide this section into further categories – but for the reader’s sake, I won’t.

The Workplace: Most of us work with other people. Most of the people we work with have families. People who work together support their families through the work they do, and the latter unites them in a common purpose. Like it or not, if you work with others, your family and theirs are connected.

Coworkers should get to know one another’s families. You might say that just as the church is an extension of the domestic family, coworkers’ families form an extension of the professional family (or community, if you’d rather use that term); as such, company families can encourage and reinforce people in their mission with regards to the work they do (after all, no matter what type of place you work for, your workplace is performing some service that has a place in society as a whole).

As we celebrate Red Ribbon Week, let’s take time to consider the indispensability of the family in communal life, and of support systems for the family. My advice to myself and to us all is that we should sharpen our appreciation of our respective family lives, as well as any support systems that make them possible.

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