Advice, Knowledge And Insight For The Modern Man




Dylan Stewart
Columnist

 

 

I think it’s time we take a deep hard look at the meaning of the word “family.”

Every generation has seen it differently.

Every generation has defined it differently.

For the generation in the 50s, it was Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, the Waltons, and shows like that. Shows that talked about the new post World War II family: two kids, a father and a mother, maybe a family dog and a white picket fence.

I never saw family like that.

That changed again in the 70s. Shows like Happy Days, Gilligan’s Island, the Flintstones, and the Brady Bunch gave us a wider view. They showed a more open idea of what a family could look like… I grew up on those shows. We were starting to see different families coming together and families being more broadly defined and more open than we had ever seen before.

In the 90s that trend deepened, and we saw shows like Friends that started to teach us that family wasn’t always blood related. Shows like Cheers, and Seinfeld… Shows like Beverly Hills 90210.

Now I’m not saying that the definition of “family” is completely ruled by popular culture and television, but it gives us a strong look into how families were seen. Look at the Cosby show… Look at Roseanne… the boundaries were stretching… the possibilities were changing.

In the 2000s on the 2010‘s, that changed again. Shows like Modern Family give us a much better idea of the post nuclear family, where brothers and sisters, stepfathers and stepmother‘s, adopted children are all a part of the picture. And thought it’s all a step in the right direction, I propose something very different. Something much bigger.

This month was a complicated, convoluted, challenging month filled with growth and pain, struggle and success. It’s a snapshot of my life, and it gave me a very different idea of who my family is.

I started the month in Canada, with a meeting with the Board of Directors of Mentor-Discover-Inspire (the men’s organization I am deeply invested in). Being in the room with the leadership of this organization felt like sitting around a family dinner table. We didn’t all agree, but we all had the same purpose in mind. We all wanted success; we all wanted the family that is the men’s circles we spend time with to flourish and expand, to grow and strengthen.

 


 

I came home, and was placed right in the middle of one of the worst wildfires California has ever seen. In fact, if you want to get technical about it, I was in the middle of two of the worst fires California has ever seen… The Woolsey fire and the Hill fire.

My house in Calabasas was sandwiched between the two of them, and returning home from work I saw the flames cresting the hills over my house. My son and his mom live in Westlake, another nearby community that was also threatened by those fires. I had to evacuate, and I had to help her evacuate. My father lives in Malibu, and he also had to evacuate. And before long a caravan of my family members was heading in different directions, running from the same fire. My actual family.

But after the smoke and ash had started to settle and I was able to come back to my home, my entire city had been ravaged by the fire… and I found that my community, my neighbors, the local businesses, even the firefighters were all part of my family too. I felt like we had gone through something together. Maybe we weren’t standing side-by-side, but somehow family is more than geography. It’s more than blood. It’s just more.

Right on the heels of the fire, I had a birthday… followed less than three days later with Thanksgiving. Opportunities for my real family to come together. However, my family for my birthday and Thanksgiving includes my friends, includes my men’s Circle, and even the community around where I live.

You see we’re looking at things too small. Too finite. MY family… MY community… MY friends.

It’s not like that. We are all one. We are all family. Whether you were touched by this particular fire or not, you are my family. Whether you enjoyed Thanksgiving, or live in Canada where Thanksgiving is celebrated on a completely different day… you are still my family.

Television doesn’t understand it, movies don’t understand it, most people don’t understand it.

Your family is everyone you meet. Everyone you come into contact with. Everyone whose life you’ve touched… and everyone their lives have touched. You see there are ripples.

When I brought Halloween candy and cold drinks to the firemen fighting the fire in my area, I was saying welcome to my family. And the people that they touched were part of that family too.

When I was meeting with the leadership of the men’s circle in Canada, discussing the future of an organization we care about, that organization was my family. Those men are my family, but their families are mine too. We are all connected. We are all each other. And the sooner we break down the bonds between us and them… between mine and yours… as soon as we start to dissolve the understanding of “I”… we can start to make some real progress.

This planet is in for some challenges in the near future, whether they are environmental, political, financial, military or otherwise. There is no doubt that our world will look very different for our children than it does today.

That is unless we can start to learn the lessons. Start to put the pieces together. Start to help those around us, embrace those around us, give back to those around us. What if you invited a stranger to your Thanksgiving? What if you gave a Christmas present to a homeless person? What if you visited a different men’s team in a different city, and connected with those men as if they were your team?

Successful families? How about successful communities? How about a successful planet? Or is that rising up “the world sucks” chart too high! Am I falling prey to my own belief that we can do anything we set our minds to? Maybe … but I would rather reach for the stars, and fail dramatically then sit in the sewers… satisfied with how my life is, thinking it’s good enough.

It’s good enough.

And it’s not good enough.

Successful family means you care about everyone that you touch. The fire victim, the men in the men’s circle, your family, and the people you’ve never met. In fact anyone reading this post… You are my family too, and I can’t wait for us to sit around the table together and break bread, and share in all of our collective successes.