December is the Family Month in Rotary, also known as the Family of Rotary Month. What a perfect fusion of month and theme. The holiday season is when the majority of families all over the world celebrate Christmas. Maybe I should just talk about Uganda which I am familiar with since my knowledge of the rest of the world is mainly from well-traveled friends and family, TV and books I’ve read. Ever since I was a kid, I have always known December as that month when we’d all squeeze into whatever family vehicle we had at the time and drive off to the village for some quality family time.

Even when the trips to the village never happened, for one reason or the other, it was still the month where I got to see most of my extended family, because of all the weddings that fell within that month. What’s up with that anyway? All those December weddings, is it people panicking to fulfill their main New Year’s resolution? I have never really understood that December wedding phenomenon. On the bright side, it suits the December Rotary Family Month theme perfectly, because all these knew families are being formed during weddings. In this article though, I wanted to explore some alternative definitions of family outside of the nuclear description most of us primarily know.

 I happen to be a big fan of the Fast and Furious movies. The trailer for the seventh installment in the franchise came out recently, and one of the lines that stuck in my head to mull over is when Vin Diesel’s character says in that bass voice to one of the bad guys, “I do not have friends, I have family” My desktop dictionary describes family, in the Rotary Family month context, as “A social unit living together” or, “Primary social group; parents and children” or, “People descended from a common ancestor; blood relations” … All these definitions are somehow linked to that old saying, ‘Blood is thicker than water’, but that isn’t always the case. As we grow up and meet people out of the family nucleus, we forge relationships, some of which go on to eventually more meaningful than what we have with our of dictionary definition family. I will therefore use this article to reflect on some of the people who over time, or even for brief moments in life, have through their actions proved that they qualify to fall in the Vin-Diesel-context family category.

These are picked from my own personal experiences and stories others have shared with me over the years. Family is the guys at your work place. Majority of us view the workplace as that place we have to report to everyday so we can get a pay check at the end of the month. I believe the people there matter a lot too. We spend a big chunk of our adult lifetime in the same space with these people. It therefore makes seems to get to know them well and see how you can make their existence at the work place better. Family is those workmates who help you out in one way or another. My immediate boss at my current place of work usually comes with her own packed lunch, and most days it is more than she can eat. She always offers the extra food to me or another of the workmates.

This means I get to save on buying lunch. Or those people who gave you transport home when times were really hard and accepted whatever excuse you gave for being broke without making it awkward. Family is that stranger or friend who genuinely asks you how you are doing, and then actually listens when you pour out your heart to them about whatever it is making your heart heavy at the moment. In this digital age we live in, attention is becoming a very scarce commodity, so it is always refreshing to know someone who is willing to give you their attention. Even when they don’t have problem solving advice to give you, it’s just nice to know they actually listen as opposed to just hearing.

Family is your housemate/roommate/neighbor. These are people that sometimes get to know you better than your own family. They are there you with you through your journey as you grow up into an important-decision-making adult. Through the tough times and the good times. Family are those teachers over the years that went over and above the call of duty and were genuinely interested in you learning whatever subject matter it is they were teaching. It is common for us to forget about these people once we leave the institutions of learning, but a thank you letter, or a phone call to check on them every once in a while wouldn’t hurt.

Family is those people that decide to take on protégé’s even when they do not have to. Like that friend of mine who decided to gift his camera and impart some skills to a boy in Congo who showed interest in photography. Like that famous blogger who decided to pay the fees for a talented young boy that reads his blog that wrote to him telling him how he was about to drop out of school because his family couldn’t afford. Family is that friend that used to share with you his grub in high school whenever yours run out.

Those chaps were the real MVP’s Family are those people that chose to support orphans. Whether by starting orphanages, contributing to orphanages, adopting orphans. It doesn’t have to be just orphans. Anyone in need basically. Family is that stranger at the bar who buys you a drink when he doesn’t know anything about you. Or those guys that decide to buy a round because they are happy about something. If that is not spreading the cheer, then I don’t know what is. This does not include the ones that buy rounds to show off how rich they are. We still drink their rounds, but those are not family like intentions.

Family is…. (Insert your description here) Some of the examples may seem flimsy to some of the readers, but one man’s meat… I know I have taken a lot of liberty with the definition of family and merged it with other concepts like selflessness, kindness, friendship… but why not. If family was a corporate entity, I am sure those would be its values. And then take some time to show your gratitude to this family and show them their gestures have not gone unappreciated.

By Niwagaba Roland

About Franny Kaganzi

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