Families are strengthened by family reunions, and strong families support communities and nations. My husband and I - along with three children, their spouses, and twelve grandchildren - recently attended the annual reunion for the posterity of my parents. I love family gatherings, and I look forward to THE family reunion each year. Even though I recently had two weeks with my children and grandchildren, I still looked forward to attending the reunion of my extended family. I love being with my siblings and seeing the various members of their families.
Most years I leave the reunion feeling a little let down, and this year was no exception. I felt a little sad and slightly disappointed, but I did not know why. The patriotic program was outstanding, the company was wonderful, the food was delicious, and the games entertaining. What more did I want?
I finally determined that I was saddened at the number of family members who attended. I checked the official records and determined that about 130 people were at the reunion. Although this number is a little low, it is very close to the average attendance. I was sad because 130 people represent about 27 percent of my parents’ posterity of 487. I wondered why the rest of the family was not there.
I started by subtracting the family members who are deceased – about a dozen. I figured that there were another dozen or so people serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or serving in the military. I know that a fair number of people live far enough away to make it difficult to travel to the reunion annually. I gave them a pass as well as a pass to a niece celebrating her birthday, another niece who had an annual commitment on that particular weekend, a great-niece who gave birth to her first child the previous day, and anyone who was too ill to come or had to work. I gave an arbitrary number of 243 people who fit in these categories. That leaves 244 people. Where were the 114 people who were not there?
Why would this number of people choose to stay away from a family reunion – especially when they live in the same city or within an hour’s drive of the reunion? Everyone is welcome for whatever time they can spare. There is no requirement to attend the entire reunion, and numerous family members were in attendance only a part of the time. My son attended the first half and then left for work. Members of my younger brother’s family left a little early in order to attend a nephew’s baptism. Others came late and were a welcome addition.
I am saddened to think that I have loved ones who do not want to be around family enough to attend the reunion. How many of them are nursing bitter feelings? How many of them do not feel like they are important to the family? How many of them do not place a high priority on family togetherness?
These thoughts and feelings are weighing on me quite heavily. I have them every year, but this year they are a little weightier. I suppose the extra weight could come from the fact that I am the chairman for the next reunion. Now I am faced with more questions: What can I do to encourage better attendance? Who can I invite to assist me? What will make a difference?
I put a high priority on family, and I feel that attendance at the family reunion is important. My husband and I paid more than $1300 to attend this reunion, and we are away from home for ten days this year. I consider those facts to be proof of my commitment to family. I hope and pray that more members of my family will put a high priority on family togetherness!