FAITHFUL LIVING: We all need somebody to lean on

I've been thinking about that old Zen conundrum: what's the sound of one hand clapping? My personal opinion — nothing. You don't have two hands, you don't have any clapping. It's as simple as that. Stars, galaxies, clapping hands, what's the point? The point is that we all need somebody, whether you're a supercluster or a little proton, a yin or a yang. Everybody is hooked into everybody else.

Geoffrey Neighor,

Northern Exposure, Duets, 1993

As an elementary school-aged child, I remember thinking that I had a good family and if I wished hard enough my life with them would go on forever. I could not imagine living without them.

Neither could I imagine experiencing serenity any sweeter than that which I discovered the summer we toured the Pacific Northwest together.

It was a camping trip and the adventure included my parents and brother. There was also my Great-uncle Loren, the elder statesman, his younger brother Charlie and my grandmother —their baby sister.

It is a treasured and sweet gift to be able to think back on their weathered, lined faces smiling back at me. It is still sweeter to recall the interactions that included story telling, humor and the simple joy that comes from being outside, observing new places and eating pancakes at a picnic table so moist that your bottom gets uncomfortably damp unless you sit on a towel.

It was a memorable vacation. Why, Uncle Charlie ran into a girl who had written him a Dear John letter 50 years before when he received the call to defend his country. We watched bears stride through one of our campgrounds. We also learned to truly appreciate the wildflowers because Grandmother liked them so very much.

Beyond the adventure, God was beginning to mold my understanding of family life. He began teaching me about its irreplaceable value, for He knew there would come a day when I would need to reinvent my concept of family so I could weather the storms of life and have others to tell of its joys. He also knew I would grow up and naturally regroup. I would live into the Age of Technology when growing numbers of us would think nothing of moving away from our places of birth. Or hook up with someone over the Internet. Or come to believe that marriage vows, made before God and family, can be broken with social acceptance because it is no fun learning how to deal with personalities and life rhythms and agendas that defy your own.

Uncle Charlie died first, back at his home in Texas. Uncle Loren attended my wedding, bought me an egg poacher because he said every young bride needs one, and returned home to pass away within a matter of weeks at age 90. Grandmother would remain the last person alive in her family until 1997 when the call from Charlie and Loren and all the rest would sound much sweeter than ours here on earth.

But the beauty of family, clan, network and tribe lives on in me. I first watched it work as a young teen when I joined a church youth group. We played together, prayed together, cried and laughed together. And while all that bonding and growing took place, God moved in and dwelled within us because we asked Him to. We eventually parted to attend various colleges, to marry, work and live our adult lives. But we also took God’s lessons and His spirit right along with us.

I did not fully understand the concept of family building until I moved here to the Pacific Northwest, far from my childhood home and its comfortable structure to create family from a community of strangers. I learned that when it is holiday time and family is too far away to eat your turkey, you bring friends to your table and prepare some of their family’s favorite holiday dishes so they will feel at home.

I learned that when you need someone to hold you accountable to exercise on a daily basis, you stop cursing the fact that your sister lives 1,500 miles away. Instead, you build on a commitment to walk with your neighbor and out of that daily interaction grows sisterhood.

I learned that you carpool and phone and touch base with those around you on a regular basis. You complicate your life because that is what family members do. That way, when your heart is breaking with disappointment and injustice, you put out a call and they will draw near, to love and listen to you.

I learned that when you start a new job you join the lunch crowd because one day they will be your work family.

We all need somebody.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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