We come into the world naked and alone. It’s not warm and fuzzy, and it’s certainly not much fun. In America, if we’re lucky, we live just over 76 years (76.4 average life span for males, 81.2 for females), then leave the world the way we entered it—naked and alone. During that time, we experience childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, and eventually old age. Aside from the knowledge and skills we gain through our formal education and work experience, we accrue material possessions such as monetary wealth, houses, automobiles, electronic equipment, clothing, artwork, etc. And finally, we acquire friends, the majority of whom are casual acquaintances whom we know for varying lengths of time, depending upon how often we move, what organizations we belong to, and which jobs we hold. In addition, if we are fortunate, we may have a handful of really, really, good friends in our lifetime. These are the individuals in whom we can confide when necessary, provide assistance to when they need it, and upon whom we can depend when we most need their help.
But there’s one other component of our lives that I have not mentioned. It is life’s very essence. Can you guess what it is? Here’s a hint: it’s what makes our lives truly worthwhile, and what gives our lives meaning and purpose. We make sacrifices for it, we compromise with it, and we push ourselves to the very limits of our emotions to maintain it. It’s the family (la famiglia, if your of Italian descent, as I am), and it’s the most valuable thing we have. It’s true. Regardless of how much success we have achieved in our careers, how many material possessions we have collected, or what degree of notoriety we have attained, without family it is all meaningless. Without family, we are poor. Without family, we are destitute. Without family, we have nothing.
This weekend, I was literally immersed in family. The occasion was a party to celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday. There were a few friends and neighbors in attendance, but mostly there was family—and lots of it. Included were—in addition to my wife, my own two sons, their wives, and the aforementioned granddaughter—some of my present in-laws, many of my former in-laws (yes, we all got along) and my only brother. Rather than bore you with the whole megillah (the Hebrew word for scroll), suffice it to say that there was an abundance of love in the room. It was that special kind of day that occurs only once or twice in a lifetime. It was truly magical, so much so that it prompted me to take stock of the blessings God has heaped upon me. I concluded that I am richer than Croesus. I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without family, but I can tell you what it’s like with family. It’s quite simply the most fulfilling way I can imagine to spend those 76.4 years I have to live on this earth (or however many years God ultimately grants me). With Thanksgiving approaching, I urge every one of you to think of the loved ones you are lucky enough to have, and to embrace the gift that keeps on giving, the essence of life—the family!
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