“It’s just so amazing the way you can open yourselves up to their biological families.”
This statement was said to me by a dear friend as we had dinner together one night and were discussing my adopted daughter’s birth family.
How can you not? I think. I love these people and feel a connection with them. Maybe it’s because of the love for my daughter that spills over in a natural desire for me to connect with her birth family, or maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but including others has always been a part of my DNA.
As a child I watched as my aunt and uncle took in countless kids, loving them as their own and adopting many of them into our family. Never once did anyone within our tight-knit clan question why they would do this. I grew up around family — aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins — that I only later found out I was related to only through marriage. No one ever bothered to tell me that “Gramps” wasn’t actually my gramps—he and everyone else just loved us all.
As a teenager, my dad loved to make a game out of answering the door before my friends could knock. With gusto he’d open the door, offering a warm welcome and often a hug to anyone on the other side of the door. Welcoming others in was almost comical as I watched my dad love well the people his children loved. My mother, although not quite as exuberant, was always a quiet support who made sure there were snacks and treats for friends, offered a listening ear when we needed her, and loved my girlfriends like a second mama.
All this history brings me to my own adulthood, where welcoming others into our lives and even our family through foster care and adoption seems normal, even natural. Why wouldn’t you love people?
I may not always do it perfectly; please don’t see that in my words. I just have this voice inside my head that tells me I must try. That loving others, although sometimes messy and a little painful, is worth it.
This is the legacy of the people who loved me messy and crazy and well. I am the product of their wild and loud love. Lest you think it was perfect, it wasn’t. There were many fights and tears and battles along the way. There were struggles and mistakes. They just continued to love us all through it.
And I don’t know who your people are. I don’t know how you were raised. Maybe you think you don’t have anything to offer, or maybe you think you needed to have a loving upbringing to love others well, but you don’t.
My family members have had their own hard stories and upbringing; that’s why it was so important that they created for us the growing-up spaces that they did.
And we all have the ability to do this for those around us. Have a co-worker who is hurting? Invite them out for coffee. A neighbor who lives alone? Include them in on a family meal. An acquaintance who is grieving? Send them a note of encouragement.
We can all do things each day, even small things, to love others well. Now is not the time to build up walls or exclude others or only take care of our own. When the world’s pain is great, our love towards others can be greater.