One of the things I really enjoy about working in the National Parks is seeing the families that come in together. This last week we had a family reunion group with a matriarch, four children with spouses, adult grandchildren and spouses, and a whole herd of great-grandchildren. They filled up the visitor center with noise, laughter, and love for each other. Earlier that day some grandparents and their one granddaughter came in. The granddaughter earned her Jr. Ranger badge. They were having a wonderful time enjoying each other.
Families come into the park in all shapes and sizes. Some come with the baby in a sling on the front and a toddler in a stroller. Some have teenagers who won’t take their eyes off their cell phones. We had a mom with four boys and a little girl and all of them were very interested in everything we were doing and asked lots of questions. The youngest boy kept calling the whales “okras” which was adorable.
When people come into the National Parks they are usually on vacation so they are expecting to have a good time. We get a lot of families that include adult siblings and lots of child cousins. The extended family has rented a house together for a week of vacation. I get a little wistful when I see them.
I wish we could have taken some family vacations with my brother and sister and their families. But our kids are spread out over 15 years. Although I think the cousins love each other, they haven’t had much in common. And now that most of them are adults, they are busy building their own lives. We are lucky to get everyone together twice a year for an afternoon.
Families are a gift from God. Whether your family is big or small, traditional or extended – they are people that you love / tolerate / enjoy / pray for / tease / exasperate / and care about. When I think of my extended family I know that, whether we are near or far away, we have each other’s backs. I can count on them to be there for me when I need them.
Have you ever taken a family vacation with more than your nuclear family? What was it like?
Take a minute to thank God for your family today. Be thankful for the gift of knowing that you aren’t alone. And – maybe – give a sibling or a cousin or a grandparent a call.