"I have a grandma in California," Jarvin announces to a couple of his buddies.
"You do not," retorts one of the boys. "Your two grandmas live here."
"I do, too! My Grandma Co lives in Los Angeles, and she's coming to see us. You can meet her then."
Jarvin's friends would not, in fact, convince him that he didn't have a grandmother in California. Who's to say which point of view is correct? Jarvin's California grandmother doesn't have the same lineage, in fact, isn't even of the same race or color, and isn't married to anyone in his family. Yet he and his nine siblings and cousins have always known her as their grandmother. They've spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together. They seek her guidance from time to time and always know she loves them.
What makes up a typical family? Many have studied and even hotly debated that question for many years in my state. I come from a fairly typical blended family, which, to some, is not a typical family at all. I claim a father, sister, stepbrother, half-brother, husband, and three stepchildren, not to mention three stepgrandchildren.
On top of that, I have Jarvin's entire family that has embraced me as one of theirs for over 30 years. And numerous young French women call me their American mother, having spent summers with us when they were teenagers.
Since early childhood, I've asked questions about family. What is it? Why is this person family despite the fact that we have no relationship, and why is that person not family even though we see one another frequently? My parents could never answer those questions.
Christ Jesus asked a similar question when he was told that his mother and brother were outside waiting to speak to him. He asked who his mother and brothers were. Then he extended his hand toward his disciples and declared: "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt. 12:49, 50).
I'm always struck by the fact that he didn't limit family to flesh and blood, but included those with kindred spirits, who valued the same things and sought similar goals. So do I. Viewing family in this way didn't mean that Jesus stopped loving and caring for his flesh-and-blood family. Even while on the cross, he told John to take care of his mother.
A perception of family as kindred spirits doesn't limit one's experience to individuals with a similar socio- economic-ethnic profile, but broadens it. It lifts one's perspective to see family as not strictly material, but for the unity that exists among all life. A thread of shared qualities of thought and living unites us all. In fact, opening the door wide to the acceptance of family beyond bloodlines invites in many exciting and touching opportunities.
Mary Baker Eddy, a real pioneer thinker along these lines, opens thought to the possibility of family with no boundaries. Because of the conventions during the Victorian era, she struggled to find her sense of family. After Mrs. Eddy's husband died, her son was taken from her because family members believed she was too sickly to take care of him.
For many years, she supposed he was dead, and they were finally reunited when he was in his 30s. She never stopped loving her son and did what she could for him and his family, but she also expanded her own sense of family to include not only her students and followers but critics as well.
From the depths of her need to understand true family in its infinitely varied and wonderful expression, she wrote, "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" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pages 469-470).
Throughout the world, many solitary individuals yearn for a sense of family and belonging. As we elevate our thinking to include everyone in the family of man, each one can feel at home because we're all among kin.