Family Matters

Rev. Mary Murray Shelton

In this age of Coronavirus “family” has taken on new meaning. Those we can connect with on a regular basis have become more and more important. Whether these people are our blood relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or some combination of all of these doesn’t matter as much as the heartfelt connections among us.

When our lives are busy with activities and responsibilities away from home we might not notice that our deeper connections with people are few and far between. When we’re working from home and find ourselves more isolated that stands out like a neon sign. The longer the aloneness persists the more we may feel the lack of connection with caring others.

We can chalk this up to a temporary situation of loneliness and soldier on until this pandemic passes. Or we can reconsider the habits and priorities we haven’t questioned before. Here before us then, is the opportunity to create a whole new life of increased connection and fulfillment.

Older folks are getting familiar with social media, email, and Zoom. Families are learning how to do group gatherings online, giving far-flung family members rarely heard from a new access to the family circle regularly. Employers, teams, clubs and classes are finding out that eliminating a commute saves time, gas, money and the environment. Those joining in from home don’t have to dress up, face traffic or rush a meal to get somewhere on time. This forced learning will change how we do many things that in the past we could rely on from habit–even those that required inconveniences we complained about.

Years ago I learned the term ‘ohana the meaning of which was given as “chosen family.” Wikipedia tells me: ʻOhana is a Hawaiian term meaning “family” (including blood-related, adoptive or intentional). The term in Māori is kōhanga, meaning “nest.”

In Hawaiian real estate jargon, an “ʻohana unit” is a part of a house or a separate structure on the same lot that may house a relative but which may not be rented to the general public. In Disney’s Lilo & Stitch films the term is used this way: ”ʻOhana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind—or forgotten.”

Who is your ‘ohana?

As I work on my late brother’s estate during my vacation I’m getting to know his best friends, the Schrader family next door. The older couple took my brother completely into their family, including adults kids, grandkids, vacations, holidays, daily card games and cocktail hours. As much as family meant to my brother, the word ‘ohana comes closest to describing the true meaning to him: blood family and chosen family.

I’m writing this blog from the patio of the Schrader family home next door to my brother’s house. You see, at 87 when he made his transition, my brother had been adamant for decades that he wanted nothing to do with computers, the internet, emails and all that nonsense. Consequently, he has no internet connection in his home, which, during this pandemic has made free WiFi nearly impossible to find, unless I park in the MacDonald’s lot and use their unsecured WiFi. Finding information and completing necessary paperwork without internet is pretty darn difficult!

The Schraders kindly offered to let me come over and use theirs when I need to do that. I’m trying to take as little daily time as I can so their patio isn’t monopolized. And I’m very grateful. They don’t really know me, but by extension we are ‘ohana.

We are blessed at GGCSL to become some kind of ‘ohana for one another. Perhaps now is an especially important time to reach out to each other more and treasure one another.

Namasté, dear hearts.

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