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Remember your family, both blood and surrogate, this holiday

Posted: November 23, 2011 3:38 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.

“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” ~Johann Schiller

On a fateful autumn day in 1621, two groups of people who possessed different skin colors and customs, all shared a table of harvest in the celebration of survival. They set aside differences to share thankful hearts and food.

This is the classic Thanksgiving story we are told beginning as young children. It’s the season of the year where we begin to make that list of things we are thankful for. At the top of most people’s lists, would be family-the people who are there for you no matter what and who can always lift your spirits.

I’m blessed to have family as a top contender on my “thankful list” this year. However, not only have I been l blessed with a biological family to be thankful for, but also surrogate family members as well.

The thing is, family has such a broad definition. This “family” category doesn’t always simply pertain to the individuals whom we share hair color or family quirks with, but can be those with whom we share laughs and memories that allow us to call them family. Anne Tyler’s novel, Dinner at a Homesick Restaurant, is a prime example of a story where people find ties that bring them together as surrogate families, with the same emotional support found in blood relations.

One of the biggest surrogate families I have had in my life are my church families. These same people that I have shared a worship space with on Sundays are also the ones that I share some of the sweetest moments with, too. They’ve surrounded me for most of life with a deep love that is found in words of encouragement, moments of laughter, smiles across a sanctuary, pride in compliments, and hugs that are sentimental. I’ve found surrogate mothers in youth directors, surrogate grandparents in older adults who wrap an arm tight around me and brag as if I were one of their own, and a youth group who are my brothers and sisters in Christ and that I love as if they were my biological siblings.

I’m fortunate to have a godmother that through a relationship whose foundation is built on quality time and sentimental moments, I love like an aunt. I’m grateful for a neighbor whom over the years with her words of wisdom, endless love, and never-ceasing support became my other mother.  We all have those individuals who share no DNA, but with whom we share our love with that allow them to become mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Yet, isn’t that the same bond that formed on that first Thanksgiving Day? A day where a group of people, who shared no kin relation, became a surrogate family on the basis of looking after each with generous hearts that shared not only the crop that they had reaped, but the gratitude that had blossomed in their hearts. Be thankful this holiday season, for not only those who share a family tree with you, but also for those who share a kindred spirit with you.

(Rebecca Rowell is a contributing columnist for the C-I from Lugoff-Elgin High School and can be reached at


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