A gorgeous friend (maybe my oldest friendship) sent me Shauna Neiquist's Bread and Wine (remember how much I loved Bittersweet?). I keep crying when I read about Neiquist's weekly dinners with her small church group in Michigan, and her monthly supper club in Chicago.
Growing up as a military brat, there was a built-in cultural net, and family-of-choice (or of necessity) was common and strong. I remember holiday dinners with Marines in Frankfurt (still West Germany then), and the hostess whose hospitality formed the foundation of my idea of ministry. 12-Step groups entered my life in middle school, and family-of-choice was part of that system, too. I've lost count of the number of caring adults who nurtured me there, but some of them I treasure as those who (through the preventive medicine of compassion and truth-telling) surely saved my life.
Where I live now, people's social lives often center (sometimes nearly exclusively) around their extended families. For a lot of reasons, that's not an option for my household. We have friends here, but we don't have a group of friends. Rather than a net, we have a number of separate ropes. (In fact, we have ropes all over the country, which is marvelous... but it's not a net.) Living here, both being Not From Here (and worse: not being from anywhere, which is next to impossible for many to imagine), and not being part of a family feels precarious. It can be lonely, but I can work around that-- lunch with one friend, coffee with another. What's trickier is that when there's Big Stuff, being held by totally separate threads doesn't seem to work as well as when they're interlaced.
As Dave and I think about where we might be next, I'm wondering how you all experience family-of-choice vs. family-by-blood in your particular geographic region. It feels like the emphasis on family-by-blood is especially strong here, but I want a reality check. Do you have a group of local friends who support each other well? A workout group? An especially close Bible study? Anybody willing to tell me about their experience?