Celebrate Family

Celebrate Family
By Kathleen Strottman

The word for family in Spanish is “familia”, in Mandarin Chinese its “jia”, in Russian its “sem-ya”, in Indonesian its “Kelurga” and in Swahili the word for family is “jah-mee.” In all 6,500 spoken languages in the world, there is a word for family. While the word family is said differently in each, its importance to children is universal.  Everywhere in the world, the family is known by all as the very basic unit of society, the unit into which children are born and through which they are meant to reach their full human potential.

When speaking of family, American comic George Burns once said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, close-knit family …who lives in another city.”  And humorist, Erma Bombeck described the family as “a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bind us together.”  Former First Lady Barbara Bush put it perfectly when she said “family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

These heart-felt tributes to family are matched equally by scientific evidence that a loving family plays a fundamentally important role in the development of a child.  Co-founder of Head Start, Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner put it this way: “In order to develop normally, a child requires activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last, and always.”

I have been blessed to attend some of the best schools in the United States.  And in the 25 years of my education, I have learned many of life’s certitudes.  I learned that the square root of 144 is 12.  I learned that every sentence must have a subject and a verb.  And I learned that the force that takes an object from a higher point to a lower one is called gravity.  I cannot tell you precisely when it was that I learned that family matters.  Maybe it was through the countless times that my parents demonstrated their “completely irrational love” for me.  I never once doubted that they would be there for me. I grew up completely secure in the idea that they would always protect me. And because they showed me every single day how special I was, I grew up believing that I could do anything.

Maybe I have learned how much family matters when I became a mother to three children. Like my mother before me, I would go as far as to lay down my own life for my kids. Believe me, Dr. Brofenbrenner, I know what you mean by CRAZY.  Is there a parent reading this blog who would not admit to being crazy in love with your children?  What makes the love we feel for our children so amazing is that it is a pure and unconditional love, like no other we have experienced.

And that is why CCAI exists.  Because we believe with all our hearts that every child in the world not only deserves to know that kind of love, but needs to.  We know that a nurturing relationship with a parent is not a luxury meant only for a precious few, but a biological necessity of all children everywhere.  And our heart is heavy with the knowledge that there are children all over the world who because of cultural and policy barriers don’t know that kind of love.  Some don’t have it because they have a disability and their parents live in a place where they are told to believe these children are cursed.  Others don’t have it because they are older, and society has told them to just hold on for the day that a family is no longer necessary.

And we think that is simply unacceptable.

In 2011, the almost 700 people in attendance at our 13th annual Angels in Adoption dinner were brought to tears as national award winner Scott Fujita, a six foot five, 250 lb. linebacker for the Cleveland Browns talked about what his five foot two Japanese American parents meant to him.  He said, “you can’t put a face on love and you can’t tell me what a family is supposed to look like, but we all certainly know what a loving family is supposed to feel like.”

Take a minute today to watch the video. I hope it reminds you of how important family has been in your own life and inspires you to do more to help every child in the world know this kind of crazy love.