Take a tour with me of Uwe Ommer's photographs of families from around the world, currently on exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. There are close to 100 pictures, some hanging outside and some within the Center. Each photograph is large, about four feet by four feet, so you are face to face with the families.
Sylvie is from Guinea. She's standing with her two children, adopted after her husband left her. Both children are in their best clothes, both holding equally well-dressed dolls.
Each of the four children from the Welsh family also holds a pet or a doll, no doubt important companions for them in their remote area of Wales.
A Scottish grandfather and his son, shrimp fishermen, are shown without their wives, who refused to be in the family picture without first visiting the hairdresser.
The man and woman from Eastern Europe are laughing heartily. His arms enfold her. You can feel their love, strong after 40 years of marriage. They are with their donkey.
An Irish bride and groom are shown on their wedding day. They say they want lots of children. A young boy is suited as handsomely as the groom is. A beautifully dressed preteen girl is leaning into the groom's arm, fast asleep. Perhaps it took too long to prepare for the photograph.
The Turkmenistan family is seated on their hand-woven carpets. An Ivory Coast woman, a teacher with her three children, is in front of her school blackboard. The California couple and child are wearing sporty clothes fitting their outdoor life style. The Roma (Gypsy) parents say they plan to stop roaming soon so their girls, shown in layers of ruffles, can go to school. There are Iranians, Albanians, Russians, Chinese, Masai, Egyptians, and many more.
Some of the family members wear sneakers, some sandals or boots, and some wear no shoes at all. You see their bikes and donkeys, camels and elephants, and even monkeys that are trained to drop nuts for Thai coconut planters.
In portrait after portrait, the faces look at us. There is pride in who they are. A sense of dignity. They acknowledge and welcome us. As we walk and look, we're no longer looking at interesting strangers. We see ourselves in their faces and stories. There is a feeling of unity, and love for these people. These are our children, brothers, mothers. We are all one family.
Images in the news are in sharp contrast to these family portraits. News scenes show people in angry mobs, tell of suicide bombers, of corrupt officials and dishonest businessmen. In the family portraits there is only love. Intuitively we know this is the truth. We feel reassured. There is hope.
The Bible states, "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10) Our hope is on a solid foundation. God is our Father, the head of the entire family of man. Our infinitely loving Father naturally provides, nurtures, and protects His children. We're under His constant care.
As members of God's family, we each have family responsibilities tasks we do to provide, nurture, and protect those in our immediate family, but also those in our larger family. Helping one another affirms our place in God's family. He gives us the wisdom, strength, and joy we need to be good family members.
Most important are our prayers. Rejoicing in the mighty fact of God's universal fathering love lights our way to see and feel God's parenting love. We can all know we're part of God's family. This same light dissolves any darkness of hatred, fear, or dishonesty that would disrupt and destroy our family relationships. Such prayer is a family thing to do.
As we leave the art center, we look again at our family of families. Yes, God is our Father. He loves us all.
With one Father, even God,
the whole family of man
would be brethren; and
with one Mind and that God,
or good, the brotherhood of
man would consist of Love
and Truth, and have
unity of Principle and
spiritual power which
constitute divine Science.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)