We had brunch this morning with our family. Well, not one of the other three families is related to us, but we are a connected web, the hub of which is our Chinese girl, LadyByrd, who calls the seven adults among us her parents. LB was a student at the high school where Beve and one of each pair worked. LB has come far distance in the last eight years since she was a scared little 14-year-old living alone in an apartment. Her story is not mine to tell, and it's full of enough pain that I would be loathe to try, but what I'm thinking about today is what her presence in our lives has brought, the gift that she's been. In a fundamental way, it is LadyByrd who made us a family, who drew these unrelated, dissimilar people together. One of the families is Jewish by heritage. They are older, and their children are older than ours, and they're on to grandparenting now, and loving every blessed minute of their adorable grandson. The other couple, Christians like us, has a preschool-aged daughter, and a baby son, and they're just beginning the journey of parenting. Then there's the Unitarian single older woman who met Ladybyrd at the nursing home where Ladybyrd worked. Ladybyrd, when she's home from college, splits her time between our residences, and we always share at least one meal around a family table, the vegetarians, the carnivors, the Chinese and the Americans all sitting together, finding common ground in the travel we've done together with LadyByrd, and now with each other.
This morning, as we sat on a long low couch posed for a picture, I thought of how wonderful it is that we should share with people so different from ourselves. For years, I think, Beve and I lived fairly homogenous lives, surrounded mostly by those who went to church, shared our views on life, God and everything else. But it might also be true that when we only commune with those identical to us, our conversations are a little like preaching endlessly to the choir. We've come to appreciate the diversity of this 'family' forged in the trenches, so to speak, with whom we sometimes disagree. And we've discovered that we are all very much the same under our distinct labels. We worry about our children (including grandchildren), worry about LadyByrd. We want the best for all of them--and for ourselves. We don't necessarily want what makes our children merely happy, but what brings them wholeness and a passion for the world--and there's a difference! Lots of things can make a person happy, at least superficially, but not nearly as many can grow a person into maturity and wellness.
We've laughed with these people, and cried with them. Beve's left a warm bed in the middle of the night to go help in a crisis, and he's driven long miles to show that he's in it with them, and with LadyByrd. Sometimes LadyByrd doesn't get this. Sometimes, as is the way of young people, especially those with such damaged pasts, she thinks she has no one. But she's the richest of all people, she has a huge family who would go out of their way for her, and now out of their way for each other. The web is strong and holding now, it covers much ground, chronologically and geographically. And I'm grateful that I've been caught in it, grateful that my life has been as impacted by these people as we have impacted LadyByrd's. There was a rich feast this morning, celebrating the rich feast that is our life together.