Community versus Individuals in Family

When We Grow Up in a Community We Tend to Stay in a Community

I was thinking today about community. What led me to this thought was a question I have had on my mind for quite some time. Why is it that families who stay together through the generations, seeing the family trunk and branches grow is rare? Why is it that families, with all good intentions, build their own little units and wonder why we are fractionalized as a society? I know this is the norm and I know there are exceptions. The exceptions made their exception happen. I have studied them because they have built connections between generations creating legacies that last. It’s a matter of a system.

I see so many families who just 3 generations later are so disconnected from their family tree that they may as well not even be part of that tree, but are inexorably linked to it by DNA, traits and genes that pass from one generation to another in the silent promise that connections live on even in the shadows of unconnected families.

Even when we think ourselves as free, we find ourselves chuckling in irony, when we notice the things we do that repeat patterns from our parents, traits from our grandparents.  My family has 5 generations of either lawyers or financial professionals and yet it is not demanded or expected of family members to do this. It happens organically and yet we are a somewhat disconnected family. Even with this disconnection, there are familiar patterns. I think about how much stronger a family would be if it recognized its capable talents, skills, values and strengths to empower present and future generations. What a difference it would make.

Through the various research, observations and questions I asked, I arrived at today when walking from my car to my office I realized: “When we grow up in a community we tend to stay in a community.”

Some families raise individual family members. The parents see their role as ringing up happy and well- adjusted children, individuals who can stand on their own.  The problem is that the focus is that standing on their own often trumps the other two considerations. Kids must excel at school, or at sports, or in leadership or in arts or in a combination of the above to the sacrifice of the community because to excel usually means being the best as compared to others rather than what it means to the individual themselves. Parents haven’t been trained to ask their children: “If you were to excel in ‘this’ endeavor, what would that look like for you?” Instead parents use the external measures of success, sometimes to the detriment of familial relationships. Your brother (or sister) can do that. You should be able to do that to. I don’t have to ask your sister (or brother) to do that, I shouldn’t have to ask you either.

When we grow up in a community we learn about the framework of the community and our role within that bigger framework.  In this way, family members have a bigger authority, a bigger ‘constitution,’ a family measure to live around. This constitutes community. It doesn’t mean that things are rigid, lethargic or boring. Au contraire. It actually calls for more directed and purposeful, more respectful and inclusive communication. It actually enables growth and possibility rather than rust and hiding behind family trees. It actually allows for an understanding of the power of community.

We learn how to grow and move around in a community because we are already familiar with it.

Why do people seek community? It is because they don’t feel that have one.  Of course, how obvious, and now with systems able to put the foundations in place for families to create connections through significant communities, how exciting.

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