I never knew.

Tonight we went to a basketball game. Nancy’s niece was playing (number 10). She goes to Calvin College in Michigan and is on the JV and they had a game with a school here in Fort Wayne. So we went to a basketball game.

We had never seen her play. She led her high school team to great seasons but we had never seen her play. She is amazing. She just lifts the ball from the hands of other players. She cuts off passes, she grabs rebounds, she hits for three. She is the smallest player on her team and has the greatest impact on making plays happen. And we had never seen her play.

We live at a distance from our two families and we are pretty committed on Sundays. We have two kids who have been involved in sports and music and church. We are, like everyone, busy. As a result, however, there are dancers and singers and laughers and thinkers and athletes and people who share our bloodlines that we hardly know.

Next week is Thanksgiving. It’s one of those family holidays which we look forward to with dread and desire. We like to see some of these people, we are afraid of the conversations with others. We are far more comfortable talking in the circles we have formed with neighbors or coworkers or online friends than with these relatives we see only occasionally.

Here’s what happens. Leah is great on the court. It’s a comfortable context. She shines making plays. But at these holidays, she is one of the little kids, sitting at the little table. We pull everyone out of their contexts, the places that they shine, and we put them on chairs by folding tables and we want there to be instant Hallmark card warmth. And then it surprises us that something isn’t right.

Here’s what we need to do. Remember that everyone has a context outside the family. Look for it. Call it out. Find out the cool thing they love and then ask them to talk about it. Study it ahead of time. Make the same effort to talk to family that you do to a job interviewer. Bring your social networking skills to your Aunt Mabel. Make cousin Xerxes a research project.

Don’t do it for your mother. Don’t do it because they are family and that’s how family ought to be.

Do it because they actually are people.

Great game Leah. I’ll try to pay attention more. And Madeline, dance well. What are you this year? And Natalie, we’ll get the magazine order in. Thanks for asking. And we’ll figure out Christmas better this year than the books last time. Collin? Love your smile.

These are the people I never knew. And they are real, amazing people. Who knew?

3 responses to “I never knew.

  1. Great thoughtful post. We are often on our worst when it comes to family, but save our best relational efforts instead for strangers or our workplace.

  2. You don’t have to order a magazine…she just got something free for sending you junk mail🙂 really… unless, of course, you want to order Discovery Girls for her and then you could handle both and that would make her exceedingly happy🙂 It would be a renewal…I got it for her last year for Christmas… And yeah, I know what you mean…it’s weird…isn’t it? I love you guys and care about you…but when it comes down to it, what do I know??? yikes.

  3. Excellent thoughts. As one of those still relegated to the children’s table, I have to say that I’ve felt the same discontent and uncomfortableness without having put it to words. Thanks for going beyond the level of feeling, or even acknowledging inwardly, and extrapolating out (and sharing it with us).