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Family Reunions — Celebrating Unity & Diversity Across Generations

29May 2009

This past week we had the privilege of attending a family union with my wife’s family in Chicago.  There were almost 40 of us, ranging in age from 3 to 74, including my wife’s parents, six of the seven adult siblings (and spouses), and 23 of the 25 grandchildren (and two spouses).  Although it was a cool and sometimes rainy Memorial Day, we had a grand time together.

Sawyer family reunion

What made it especially enjoyable was reconnecting with each family member — seeing how they are still the same person they were a few years ago, how the younger family members have changed and developed their unique abilities, and hearing about plans for the future (it was also fun to retell some funny incidents from past gatherings). But what was most fun for me was to play together (or watch others play).  We played whiffleball (where I experienced the classic American tradition of pulling a muscle while running from first base to second).

whiffleball game

Some enjoyed just “hanging out” together, but we all delighted in the homemade ice cream.

ice cream

Just a couple of observations I want to note.  Although family reunions seem to have a negative connotation in our culture, I believe they can be a wonderful celebration of loving relationships, caring for one another, and the heritage of one’s family.  As part of the Sawyer clan, we are blessed to having loving parents, siblings, in-law’s, and cousins — and it is a joy to feel supported in your life’s journey as well as give encouragement to others.

Family reunions provide an opportunity to reflect on how we are the same — our common values, similar talents, and how we look alike (well, how they look alike).

sawyer women

But we also are able to see and celebrate how we are different — from different generations, how individual families differ, and the unique giftings each person has. It seems that healthy families value their commonalities but also cherish the uniqueness of each person.

As we often talk about the importance of ongoing communication and relationships among families who own businesses, it is clear that getting together as a large family unit is important, valuable and enjoyable whether or not a shared business is involved or not.

If you haven’t had a large family gathering in a while, think about planning one.  Start with whoever can attend (don’t wait for everyone to be able to come — it will rarely happen).  Keep it short.  Have good food.  And play together.  It can be a great time!

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