The African American tradition of family reunions began after Emancipation when people sought out their family members after being enslaved and separated from them. They would place advertisements in newspapers with the hope of reuniting with their loved ones. They would also resort to sending letters to the Freedmen’s Bureau seeking the government’s assistance to locate them. Grieving and hopeful parents would return to the places from which they had been sold to reclaim ownership of their children from former owners who wanted to hold on to them. Thousands of African American men and women formalized marriages that were previously prohibited. These efforts were built on faith. They were built on the hope of reuniting and restoring the familial bonds that had been severed. Hence, the family reunions we know today was born.
Family reunions are a time of refreshing, rebuilding, reconnecting the youngest to the eldest, and in some cases, introducing the very young with the newly inducted. Family members unite by donning t-shirts that signify ancestral identity that we have somehow found each other and have all reconnected. We are family connected by tradition and by hope. We are keepers of each other’s deepest secrets. When one suffers, we all suffer. When another experiences untold joy, we celebrate—together.
There are many definitions of family – blended, immediate, adopted-by-love, extended, church, work, intimate, and the list goes on. We are not accidents. No, our existence is divinely providential. We are the glue that binds one to another. We are well-thought out plans inextricably bound to pointed destinations by way of the same Maker.
Families can be a little messy and a bit dysfunctional (but I’m not talking about my family or your family because we are all perfect, right?!). We can be like macaroni without the cheese, yams without the candy, collards without the fatback or ham hock or tea without the sweet. The special ingredient that makes us family is missing - LOVE. We need that because love and family, they go together. We are so much better together, but sometimes the best we can do is to simply remind each other that we were created for one another and are together for better or for worse.
Remember the old cliché often said in the heat of the moment – “I have no love lost for him or for her?” If we really think about what that truly means, it is “I still love you the same.” To endure the long haul and through the stresses and complexities of life, love must be more than something we feel. It must be something we do. We must demonstrate it concretely in our family. Love is not about what we say or feel; it is about action.
Love your family. Love really hard. Spend time and spend it well. Be kind and serve one another with the love of Christ. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 speaks about love in this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” That’s family!
Love is not about making allowances for regrets. It’s about living life with passion, for tomorrow is not promised and today remains very short. Cherish the memories of today; hold them close and never let go. Let us resolve to do better. When we cannot see each other, perhaps we can call, but definitely pray for one another – always pray.
And now I close with “ab imo pectore,” which translated from Latin means “from my deepest chest” or from the bottom of my heart with deepest affection, I love each and every one of you. I wish for you peace and so much love, family, until the next time. Remember, love and family – they go together.