Gracias Edith! It has been challenging to read through your thoughts on family and community and life.
Human relationships are taking place whether or not anyone stops to label them. Good or bad human relationships and constructive or destructive human relationships take place at every level of life. Whether people treat people as human beings or machines, people are treating people in some way. Whether people treat everyone as having importance, dignity, significance, or whether people treat others on a sliding scale of importance – everyone is reacting to other people in some way. Human relationships start at birth and continue to death, whether or not anyone consciously thinks about it. Adults have been teaching children lessons of how to treat people, in devastatingly horrible ways or in biblically right ways, whether or not they have ever thought of themselves as teachers. Teaching takes place by example, every minute of every day for every new human being, by whoever is with that baby human being – hour after hour, day after day, month after month…..If families were even partially what they should be, dotted all over the world would be some very effective centers for the formation of good human relationships. The drive for restoring families which have continuity through generations of togetherness is a drive for doing something basic about the whole problem of human relationships. Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?
So family is shaped by the network of relationships that exist there – hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Family is formed. Family is not perfect, family is about love and forgiveness, patience and frustration, laughter and tears. Family is absorbed. Always, always, always we are teaching family and community – how to hug, how to share a meal, how to wake up in the morning, how to fall asleep, how to play, how to learn, how to share feelings, how to resolve conflict.
Children need family, they need to learn the ways of relationship, they need to observe and interact with marriages, siblings, extended family, neighbors. In my observations of recent years, I would say that existing families have an edge here when we’re looking to care for children in need. The formation centers of families in the neighborhood are already a work in progress, their textured particularities create experiences for children that are unparalleled.
“Formation center” brings to mind working with bread dough – the stretch and pull of kneading the masa – the rolling and patting and shaping and forming of what will bring delight. The forming or kneading activates the yeast, releases its power – set in the sunlight of a window, the dough expands, fills, widens. I think that’s what families are supposed to do within society. They present authentic life, they aren’t perfect, but the formation center is critically important for children. A solid family life fills society, it expands and widens and protects us all.