Recently my wife and I traveled to Kentucky for a long weekend visit. The occasion was two fold, one another opportunity to visit with my daughter and the other to attend my family reunion. This reunion or “family picnic” as referred to in my family is a yearly event usually held in September of each year. This tradition was begun many years ago when I was a child. My mother had three sisters and their mom (my grandmother) was still living as well. Now we did get together on other occasions like holidays, but this one gathering of all the sister’s families was a special separate event. The Newman family picnic originally was a huge picnic held at a nearby park. The location would vary in the south-central Kentucky or middle Tennessee area depending upon which of the sister families was coordinating the event for that particular year.
There would be lots of food, each sister seemed to have a specialty dish that would be anticipated to appear each year. The locale was always a place of interest to the many children of the sisters. All the cousins could explore the local park and play with only stops to snack on the leftovers of the main meal. This would be an all day event, beginning before the noon meal and shutting down in the late fall afternoon. The family gathering included the four sisters, their husbands, all my cousins, my grandmother, and on occasion some of my grandmother’s sisters and families as well. There was always lots of people and even more food. The kids had fun, the adults sat and talked about past common experiences of their childhood and caught up on the latest news. Those are especially good memories for me now.
As in the course common to all family groups, life brings changes. The children have children and grandchildren. The elder pass away one by one, leaving fewer of the original band of family to gather. This is family life. The distances that separate us grows larger and the expanding families face more challenges to gather everyone back together at one time. One thing and the most important of all of this is that the tradition continues. I personally cannot take any credit for the continuance of our traditional “family picnic”. I note here that the oldest of the original cousins valued the tradition and honored her family with the commitment to continue the tradition even in the midst of all the changing family dynamics. I personally say thank you to her for preserving that tradition. There is now only one of the sisters still with us. Though elderly, she still eagerly awaits each fall for the family gathering as do we all.
The point to all of this is the value of family and tradition. We are all blessed and given into a family. This was God’s design for relationships. Throughout the Bible we encounter many traditional events that were designed to continue down the ages. Their purpose was to bring remembrance to those remaining of the importance of that event. In the scripture we repeatedly are reminded of the value of family. It is the foundation of personal growth. I understand that not all have the same original family units and their childhood may not have included parents, siblings, cousins, and other family members. I am sorry for those who were denied that blessing. But what if new traditions were begun today. Those fortunate enough to have a family tradition would seize the opportunity and commit to participate. Those without a family tradition would begin one today for their families. It is the appropriate time to begin your own family tradition that will be valued and honored by those to come.
This year’s family picnic was fantastic. There was lots of good food and ample conversation. Two of our granddaughters attended the gathering with us as well as my daughter. It was good to get to visit with my aunt and all the cousins once more. A photo album containing vintage pictures of the family was a highlight for all. There were plenty of laughs at our childhood photos especially by our children. Another thing happened also, our children see the value of families and their traditions in action. Our family picnics are very enjoyable but they are also very important in teaching life lessons to our children as they were taught to us. I heard a pastor say once that being blessed is the easiest thing he could do, all he had to do was honor his father and mother. If he did God would bless him with long life and all would go well with him. Maintaining family traditions or even starting new ones honor our heritage. God initiated the family plan and we honor Him when we keep the tradition strong.
Although there were several who could not attend this year, there were plenty of us to have fun. As the extended families continue to grow there are even more new members added to the Newman tribe. Each year we all anticipate the event and hope to have the opportunity to see all the family together once more. I hope to be able to attend again next year and I hope all my siblings, cousins, and extended family make time for the “Family Picnic”. It is a family tradition and I am blessed to participate in honoring my family. If you have a family tradition participate, if not start one with your family. You will be blessed.