Thanksgiving this year was on the Feast of Lewis, who writes understandingly in The Four Loves of that love that families share, called storge in Greek and translated by him as "Affection" in English. He notices how this genial love we share with others who we might not have otherwise picked for our lives – as we do in the love of friends or the love of lovers – nevertheless is such a broadening love: it's one that frequently opens us up to new insights and forms of love for these people, which we could not have attained but for this simplest of loves.
That feeling of general goodwill makes the mood of my Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen's house as rich as the food on their tables when this day rolls around each year. Small news and the barest outlines of our lives are shared with one another, with all the awkwardness one could expect of people almost all of whom, I suspect, fundamentally don't get one another, and who don't really try, but who find it nevertheless appropriate and desirable to gather once again, year after year, holiday after holiday. In my own case, my extended family pretty much found it inexplicable that I was studying history as an undergraduate. That I should have from there evolved into a theologian is entirely baffling, and the facts of my life are inquired about in only the most ginger and perfunctory of ways. Similarly, I have no real understanding of or deep appreciation for the day-to-day life of this lawyer or that engineer, and my own questions about their lives are as clumsy and compelling as undergraduates at a party finally dredging up the creativity to ask one another, "So... what's your major?"
But it's all good; it's all love, even if it's this sometimes strangest and sometimes most comfortable of loves. We build a better sense of one another over the years, swap specially-saved anecdotes about our lives, and make one another laugh frequently whether talking over food and drink, playing with the current crop of children, yelling at the football players on the television screen, or while we either triumph or fall during the annual Euchre tournament. It's one of those foundational goods of our lives, which like so many things that are Good, cannot really be made into compelling drama of the sort we pay to read or watch. Yet nevertheless we all need it and desire it, and our lives are wounded by the lack of it. I'm pleased and grateful to have it so richly in my own life, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again at Christmas, lots of them again at Easter, and once again all together at Thanksgiving next year.