Steven Sewell

Encouraging Leadership - Strengthening Teams During Times of Change, Adversity, and Loss.

Don’t Give Up on Family Reunions

I have good memories of my family getting together when I was younger. It was me, my cousins, and all the adults. It seemed fun at the time to sit for long periods of time, listening to each other at the dinner table, playing games, laughing at our dumb jokes, and making fun of the silliest things.


But at some point we grow up. Somewhere between 23- and 45 we think we know it all and don’t have time to reconnect with the people we love. Maybe its intentional – a way to distance ourselves from the “crazies”. Maybe our discontent rises out of hurt and suffering from a hard situation that occurred. Maybe, just maybe, the thought of spending time in the same room with the most annoying people on the planet makes you cringe. These are real feelings and you own them.


It’s also possible that the disconnect is entirely distance, cost, and timing. “It’s just so hard to get together like we used to” is what one young man in his 30’s told me at Starbucks this morning. Due to the rising expense of travel, meals, etc. people don’t have the freedom they used to have.


Whichever place on the “togetherness spectrum” you find yourself, getting together with our kin helps us with reminders of where we come from:

  • Heritage
  • Birthrights
  • Cultures
  • “Yesteryear”
  • Special Memories
  • Rights of Passage
  • Family Traditions

    I’ve gleaned a few things from Family Reunions:


    1. Who I was, and who my kids are turning into


    No doubt about it, someone is bound to come up to me and say how identical my kids are to me when I was growing up. Old people love showing old photographs of me when I was in the bathtub or running naked on the lawn as child… saying how much my kids remind them of me. All I have to say in return is that I don’t let my kids run around naked in the yard – I’m not interested in getting arrested!

    But the fact of the matter is that they are right – our kids come from our identities and our values. And nothing works better when examining your life than to look in the mirror right in front of you – your kids. UGH!


    2. What I love more than I think


    Forgive me for stepping on your toes for a minute, but we do what’s important to us. If having coffee in the morning as you wake up, reading the paper, or enjoying your Facebook profile posts is something you enjoy doing – then you’ll do just that. Your day goes smoother and happier when you’re doing what’s important to you. If you desire snow boarding in the winter in Utah you will make time and provision for it. We cultivate what we want. Good or bad. Like it or not.

    Showing up or not showing up to the Family Reunion says what’s important to us. Beyond the occasional “I can’t make it this year due to my new job or its our year to join in with the in-laws in Vermont (doesn’t that sound better than in Texas?) is acceptable to the family. But if year after year, day in and day out you are having to justify why you wont be at the gathering, perhaps – just maybe – you don’t value them. And that’s okay too.


    3. It’s okay to not want to be around “those people”. Really.


    The fact that so many of us suffer from hardships in our families, makes getting together challenging. I’m fairly certain that as I look around me today from my Starbucks table I can interview people who want nothing to do with their upbringing simply because it’s not what they want to remember or who they want to be now. And that’s okay.


    4. Reunions can make me thankful


    I have a thankful heart as I look back into yesteryear. Just the other day I was able to reconnect with my cousin who has been off the radar for a while. We reconnected easily and now when I’m going to be speaking in a neighboring area, we make a point to see each other. I love these times of the joining up of our hearts. My heart becomes full.


    The roads I’ve been on and that you’ve been on do shape us. Family Reunions and get togethers can create a space for us to look back at what has occurred. They create a space for us to look ahead.

    1 Comment

    1. I am just wondering, has annyoe ever opted OUT of a family gathering because one spouse (typically the in-law spouse, not the one in the family) has been ostracized or made fun of?We’ve been in this situation, and it only takes 1-2 people to make someone miserable. But when you live IN the same town, it’s hard to make excuses. We can’t just be gone the day of that holiday, because then they’ll arrange something one, two, three days before. I don’t want to be hurtful to those who care, or involve them in unnecessary gossip, but aren’t there times when, for the sake of your marriage, it’s better to NOT GO than to go and then fight later about how the cold shoulders should’ve been handled??

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