Monday, February 20, 2012

Family Day

Today is a holiday in some, but not all, of Canada. In Ontario we celebrate 'Family Day' and, though I suspect that someone searched for a purpose for a February holiday, it's not a bad idea. I must admit that the word 'family' is highly suspect in the vocabulary of many. 'Family Values' is a confusing phrase as it implies complete and accepting love as a value but means, mostly, discrimination and hatred. I found myself bitter that the word 'family' had been co-opted by those who, essentially, did not welcome me and my kind into the human family. But over time, I've decided that they don't own the word, and that indeed, gay sometimes just means happy.

I have come to really value family. I value the closeness that comes when 'respect' and 'welcome' co-habit the hearts of others in my life. I value feeling that I matter in some way to others and knowing that others know they matter to me.

I value family.

The other day when telling Ruby that I was feeling sad because I was away from home so much right now. She said that she could make me happy. 'Watch me skip,' she said. I could hear, because of how she put the phone down, her skip across the hall. 'Do you feel happier now?' she asked. I did and I told her so.

I value family.

Being part of Vita and the family there, has made such an impact on my life. I am connected daily with various people, different teams, regarding a variety of concerns, issues and celebrations, even when I'm on the road. They make sure that though I'm not there, I'm there. My small team, within the larger team, continues to inspire me and I think both my absence and my presence are important. My absence gives them autonomy. My presence gives them support. At least I hope that's how it works. It's a family that I feel embraced by.

I value family.

Here in Winnipeg I've run into a number of others with disabilities when I'm out and about. The two women on scooters over at Polo Park mall. The lady coming out of the bathroom at the cinema. The fellow with the two canes at the grocery store. The guy with intellectual disabilities working downtown. They all engaged me in such supportive ways. Letting me know that I'm not alone. That there is a larger community. A disparate family, like a real family, full of differences and full of individuality - yet still a family.

I value family.

Though because of travel, I am seldom in physical presence with many of my friends. Even so they are there for me, on the other end of email. They pray for me when I ask for prayer and I suspect even when I don't. They send me notes reminding me to take care of myself and Joe. They tell me titbits of their lives, things that unite me with them. They send me emails welcoming me home on the day I come home.

I value family.

And of course, there is family family. Phone calls and parcels. Emails and cards. Little things that remind us that we are connected in some real, physical way, with them. This is the family that we're meant to celebrate, but, oddly, if it's working, it's celebrated daily - it needn't have a holiday to revive it.

I value family.

Then of course, there's the really small family, the me and Joe, family. The two of us becoming elderly men in a world that thinks that our love is dangerous, that our love threatens the fabric of  'family'. Years together, working side by side, trying to make a contribution - and sometimes managing to do just that. Whatever horrible rend that we put into the fabric of society, we've spent a lifetime trying to sew up. Doing so wishing that those who abuse and hurt and bully and victimize and vandalize would occasionally, just occasionally, take up needle and thread themselves.

I value family.

And you here, on the blog, with me day in and day out. Many are here year after year. Some come. Some go. I wonder why sometimes people fall away. But I imagine that I've annoyed some, angered others ... but more often I'd guess people are just pulled off in different directions. Even though this family keeps changing and evolving - I like coming here and spending time typing out messages to distant places into different homes and becoming part of differing families.

I value family.

And today, in Ontario and Alberta and Saskatchewan, we celebrate family. Some will limit their definition - others will expand mine - however it's celebrated, Where ever you are in the world, give a nod to the families that you are lucky enough to be part of.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dave and Joe,

somewhere I read that "friends are the family you choose".

And I think they are very important. My family and my friends.

And you an Joe through your posts.

Take good care of yourself and Joe

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree that "Family Values" means mostly discrimination and hatred. Family values are all the things you listed - and I didn't see any hate and discrimination in that.

Family values are usually as individual as the family - and often bond the family together. Some values may be about time, other work ethics, some are about social issues, other spiritual - all the things that make up the days. These and others are the things that are mirrored and practiced by people in the "family". The working side by side and making a contribution are some of your wee family's values.

Also not accurate is stating that "Family Values" implies complete and accepting love. That would be nice - but not necessarily correct.

I believe that Family Values can be a healthy thing, creating a family that is life giving and supportive of each other. Values create a safe environment. They encourage you to spend quality time together. They foster an environment in which individuals know each ones responsibilities. Further, and importantly, values instill respect one for another.

Sound like something you have.

Janet said...

Anon, I do not believe that David is suggesting that families should exist without values. In the United States primarily, the term 'Family Values' was used as part of a movement to deny gay rights and to attack feminist assertions about male privilege. Whenever I heard someone say 'Family Values' inevitably they were going to spout some anti gay or anti feminist rhetoric.

Bubbles said...

Hi Dave... I value family! So do my kids. I have a brother by which society would think I use the term brother loosely. My kids have an uncle which the above would apply to also. My brother is thirty years older than me and is not biologically related to myself or my parents. I have only had my brother since I was 17 years old. My brother, for the very first time in his life... broached social communication this year, well actually the past couple of weeks, at the ripe old age of 67, when he asked how my step mothers sister was doing (she's been sick/hospitalized) much to everyones shock!!!! My brother values family!

Anonymous said...

I still tense up when I hear someone say "family values" because where I live I know that I'm about to be bullied spiritually and possibly even physically. I respect differing opinions and faiths, I just wish they would respect, and not feel the need to go on attack. In my state the 'Don't Say Gay' bill would forbid any teacher up until the high school year to say any words that would allude the the existance of homosexuality. We are to be removed from existence in language, is their any greater hint about what they'd like to do to us if they actually could. "Family Values" as I live them are about welcome, "Family Values" as said by those of a particular faith spill out into the street and into the legislature. You bet I fear them. I loved my faith as a child, I loved believing in a God that loved me. To hear that that God who accepted my childhood worship would reject my adult love hurts more than anything you might imagine.

Andrea S. said...

Agree with the first Anon (Julia) -- I feel that family is ultimately a choice of the heart that may have little to do with genetics or legalities.

Re, the second Anon: Perhaps you have been more fortunate in the area where you live, but in the United States (and I'm guessing Canada as well, or Dave wouldn't have said what he said), the phrase "Family Values" is thrown around a lot by very homophobic elements in society: They pretend they're thinking of some of the same things you and Dave have said about "family values" but they really use it partly as a code word for "Gay people are sinners and every law that could recognize their capacity for love or their ability to form and honor families, or that could protect them from discrimination and outright bullying and violence, should not be allowed." In other words, a code for hatred and discrimination toward GLBT people. Even though some of them like to fool themselves into believing that they don't actually hate us (they claim to "hate the sin not the sinner" but when it comes to the way you love, to something so intrinsic to who you are as a person, then they are kidding themselves when they assume so-called "sin" and "sinner" can be separated from each other. If they hate that our hearts love people of the same gender, then they inevitably hate who we are as well, even if they try to convince themselves otherwise.)

I agree (and I think Dave is saying also) that none of this is what the term "Family Values" *should* mean. But it is used so very heavily and consistently in exactly that fashion that I now normally cringe when I hear the term "Family Values" because I know that it is most likely being used by a person who, in the next breath, will claim that GLBT people don't have any and should basically be pushed out to the margins of society, away from the "good" straight people. The term "family values" is just not going to have a positive connotation for me until more people like Dave (and you) take it back and use it for all the ideas that it SHOULD mean, whether attached to a particular religion or none at all.

Belinda said...

As a believer I understand what the term, "family values" is code for, even for some, I imagine, in my own church. When I hear the term I read a narrow definition that acts like a fence, to keep children theoretically safe and protected from being influenced by any facts that interfere with a certain interpretation of faith. I believe the best of intentions can come with painful results. These were born in part, out of fear and ignorance; twin dangers that result in heartache, bigotry, and shame.

Children grow up and have to reconcile the faith they were taught with what they find beyond the fence. I pray that all of my grandchildren will grow up without fear of difference, believing that God is the Creator of us all, just as we are. We may have questions that we have to ask him one day, and that is okay--there may be a long line up--or maybe when we get there the questions will fade away--suddenly unimportant in the glory of his presence!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Oh, My, look what I started. I only brought up the 'family values' to indicate how uncomfortable the word 'family' had become to me. I tried to write the post as a tribute to family - but instead may have unwittingly set up a bit of a heavy discussion. I knew, because of what people have said here, that writing about 'family' would have to mentioned the adoption of the word to mean something else ... but I wanted to bring it back into use, in my own vocabulary, as a welcome word and and welcome idea. But discussion, respectful discussion, is always good. Thanks for the care with which you are all expressing your opinions.

Nan said...

Family. WHere you get loved, where you love, and where you have the freedom to delve into sometimes complex and difficult conversations . . . over which yoo often lose control! Guess RAIMH is family!!!!

Kristin said...

Happy Family Day, Dave and Joe.

Louna said...

Funny that you have a Holliday today in Canada. Here, in my part of Germany, today is an important Holliday. It's the last day of carnival. I went alone o watch the parade, not because I don't have friends, simply because I tend to first decide I'll go somewhere, and then if someone comes along, it's nice, but I don't mind doing many things on my own that others find strange. And it didn't matter, because we were all partying together, the somewhat drunk students, the old ladies who had brought folding chairs, the woman who was giving out snacks and dancing in such a happy manner... So in a way, we celebrated the connections between human beings as well.

FibroFacialGal said...

Happy Family Day, Dave and Joe!

Having had to sever all ties with my own biological family due to severe dysfunction, I feel this loss very deeply each year. Yet I still treasure the concept of family- so I built my own from my group of friends.

I also agree with the whole "Family Values" movement that brings with it intolerance and excuses for bigoted attitudes- it's just not OK, and to attach such hatred to what should be such a loving and supportive situation is so wrong.

May you both feel the love and support of your larger internet family here. I follow you because I value your opinions and like to hear about your daily happenings. I also am interested to hear about all of the cool work you do for the disabled around the world.

You don't have any thing to "make up for" or knit back together in society as a price for being yourself. I hope you don't think you need to work to earn your right to be anything but valuable for who you really are. I feel sad for you if the scars of a lifetime of intolerance would make you feel like you have to work so hard just to be valued... Hope this isn't the case.


Anonymous said...

Remember - opinions are not wrong just because they don't agree with yours.

I find, probably due to hurts, but there seems to be a narrow view of "family values" represented here. Some folks are talking as if it is a big stick.

It is what it says - values of your family - whatever that may be.

It is like the term intolerance - how we get riled about it. We won't tolerate that...whoops - that is intolerance. Some times it is necessary. We are not going to tolerate being mistreated or abused.

Values - it is often our values that we are defending. I happen to be very protective of the values of my family.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to read about some of your spiritual hurts. God loves you just the way you are. His biggest desire is to have a relationship with you. It is not about judgement, not about wrongs, not about rights - it is about relationship. He wants that so bad that He made the way to Him as easy as possible. Don't let people, religion or judgements get in the way. There are no fences with God - just love.

Nathan Dawthorne said...

I used to wear a pin on my lapel (until I lost it) that was pride colors that said "HATE is not a family value"

I seriously may have been tempted to hipcheck the old man in the pool if I heard that! As it is I probably would have told him that I was a queer and it was people like him that turn happy little kids into depressed unhappy little adults because of his hatred and bigotry - regardless of what his grandson's sexuality is.

Autumn May Dale said...

I do value my family so much, that's why I make sure we enjoy each family day of the year. We make sure we have fun bonding each other.

Liza said...

Nice Post! I love my family and also value family.Glad that I saw this post.