We have come to live more insulated lives, with less intimate contact.
It is evident in how we interact with each other at work, between friends and in our families. As people become more emancipated through rising incomes, greater access to technology, and better standards of living, they become less connected. Couples delay having children instead of setting themselves up in a career. When they do decide to have children, it is later in life and they are opting for smaller families. Most of these parents have careers, where both works to sustain their standard of living.
Today there are fewer marriages, with more divorces. More children are thus growing up in single-parent homes. Without the role models of both parents present, many children find it hard to identify with the other parent.
Our urban lifestyle allows us to live closer to one another. Yet we see less of one another. In rural areas, folks live far apart from one another. The distance from one farmhouse to the other can be more than an hour’s drive away. When they get together, they cherish the encounter as an opportunity to share information, to learn from each other and to make the moment memorable.
Both my parents were raised on farms in the arid Northern Cape region of South Africa. I’d like to believe that although my parents raised us kids in the city, they managed to keep us in touch with our roots. My mom was the second-eldest of nine siblings – four brothers and five daughters. My mom’s youngest brother and my grandfather had a farm outside of Upington. The only holidays I recall as a child were spent on that farm. Some of the best memories of my life are of those holidays.
Many of the first cousins have grandchildren of their own. There are now many uncles, aunts, and cousins. They are scattered all-over South Africa and the world. Luckily, our whole family has always believed in the value of personal contact.
Over the last six decades, every few years we arrange a family gathering. Everyone in the family that is able, gets together for a few days at a suitable venue. The reason is simple: to be family. We take time to bond and connect on a more intimate level; to share in life’s joys and sorrows with loved ones who care; to share and learn from each other; to make memories.
Last week, we had a gathering in the Kalahari for a few days on my uncle’s farm. More than 50 family members managed to make the event. They came in from far and near, by car, bus, and plane.
I was blessed that my children, daughter-in-law and my grandson, could sink their feet in the desert sand and sense the significance of the region and it’s deeper meaning to me and our family. They could spend time amongst these salt-of-the-earth people and see first-hand the unconditional love our family showers on anyone and everyone. They work hard at making every moment memorable, if not hysterically funny, with their wicked Afrikaans sense of humour.
The Gathering offered me time to reflect.
My mother and father both ran barefoot in the sands of the Kalahari. This past week, my grandson curled his little toes in the same sand. The same family values my parents espoused is evident in all these people and how they treat each other. The love in the eyes of those in spite of their suffering, gives you courage, makes you humble, and let’s you know you are blessed. Knowing that your family cares, is interested, and loves you, is a comfort to behold.
There are only two of my mother’s siblings still alive today – two brothers. And although some have sadly passed on, we owe them all a debt of gratitude for laying the foundations of The Gathering.
Have an awesome weekend! 😄