Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away. (Proverbs 27:10a)
Having a loving extended family nearby is one of life’s greatest treasures. I often wonder how many of the senseless cruelties people inflict on others might not have happened if the evil-doer had had more experience with extended, loving family earlier in life.
However, moving often means leaving the extended biological family far behind. In such cases it is wise to adopt others to fill in that void. The first time this happened to me was shortly after I graduated from college and took a job in a community where I knew no one except the person who had just offered me the job. I sat at a desk behind Lena (Mac) McGrew, who was old enough to be my mother. Indeed, I was the same age as her daughter who had finished college and moved half way across the country.
Mac soon adopted me as her surrogate daughter. I spent many a pleasant hour in her kitchen watching and helping her prepare meals the way I’d previously hung out in the kitchen with my own mother. She took me antique shopping, taught me how to refinish the resale furniture I was purchasing for my first apartment, and tried to teach me to play bridge. I never have figured out the subtleties of bridge, but I treasure the patience she showed me in her attempts to remedy that.
A few years later when our first daughter was born we asked her to be our daughter’s godmother. So seriously did she take this role that our daughter was in grade school before she understood Mac wasn’t actually one of her grandmothers.
As our family life evolved and our children grew through the various stages of childhood into adulthood, we’ve tried to extend this invitation to be surrogate members of our family to others as well. I suppose it’s natural that mobile people tend to become friends with other mobile people. This means many of these relationships last for a season or two until one or the other of us moves again.
None-the-less, the bonds forged during those seasons together bind us together as though we were actually relatives. We may only see one another every other decade or so, but the foundation we built when we treated one another as family is a firm one. We quickly again establish a connection and are blessed again for the effort we made back then.
Guideline # 3 for Relocating:
If you don’t have family around, create one. As the song says so well, “We all need someone to lean on.” The world is full of lonely people who would appreciate being asked to sit at your table and treated as though they were a long lost cousin you’ve just discovered in your family tree.