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The Gifts of FamilyJune 9, 2016
I walked into the large carpeted meeting room of an apartment complex where our family reunion was being held. Gradually the room filled, with five generations of Kavelins -- my Dad's relatives. As we gathered in small groups, moving from one conversation to another, I was in awe to learn of the gifts our family has carried forward for generations. My father sang with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and my mother was a pianist. I discovered several musicians, composers, singers, and a young ballerina, following my greatest dream at her age. They came from Italy, England, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. states. I had never met most of them before, including my cousin, an Italian Countess, whose mother (my father's sister), sang at La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy. For many reasons, I have had few opportunities to meet members of my father's family over the years. So, this experience was truly special.
Suddenly, many of the family photos came to life. People I had never met felt totally familiar. There were other authors, and many community volunteers with a passion for service and lots of humor. I felt deeply at home with my people, and realized why many Cook Islanders treasure family so very much.
The words in a Baha'i marriage prayer took on new meaning: "O peerless Lord! In Thine almighty wisdom Thou hast enjoined marriage upon the peoples, that the generations of men may succeed one another in this contingent world, and that ever, so long as the world shall last, they may busy themselves at the Threshold of Thy oneness with servitude and worship, with salutation, adoration and praise."
The Bible is full of verses that celebrate the importance of marriage and family life, such as: Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Loyalty to family is connected to loyalty to God: 1Timothy 5:8 says: "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Loving and caring for our family members is an important part of faith.
These days, living with one partner for a lifetime, completely committed and faithful, is all too rare. Being in this new, old circle brought home to me how damaging criticism and back stabbing can be, because it can destroy the family bond. And yet it commonly and casually occurs in families; it is a form of lateral (sideways) violence. True family unity, love, forgiveness and acceptance powerfully fulfills a Divine covenant. Revelation 2:10 says, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." I left the reunion with a heart full of gratitude for being part of this family, and a renewed commitment to focus on people's good points, rather than their faults. Thanks to the wonders of technology, such as Skype and Facebook, we will be able to nurture the bonds we formed. I'm also hoping they will become a new wave of tourists to our shores!