Family comes last

It’s a phrase you’ve heard countless times throughout your life. Family comes first. Yeah, right.

Is that the first that comes after the term paper or the first that comes after graduate applications? Does the phrase only apply after board meetings and conferences or after you answer all of your emails? I mean really, saying family comes first is a term used to make people feel better about the fact that they do not, ever, really put family first. It is a cushion used to soften the blow of the reality that family rarely, if ever, comes first. As a society we speak that phrase to reassure ourselves and those around us that we do still have a heart. It’s like saying you donate your money to charity or that you spend hours volunteering in your community, when really all you do is place a few coins in the collections basket around Christmas time.

So if we are placing family behind every other aspect of our lives how can we continue to use the phrase, family comes first? It is a phrase used to cover the mirror that reflects our true image.

I recently journeyed around the world. I participated in a program called Semester at Sea. I, along with over 600 other college students, circumnavigated the globe by ship in 108 days. Maybe it was the time and distance, wedged between my family and I, that made me realize just how important family is. Or, maybe it was the fact that in places likes South Africa and India family is a life source for the people. The number one priority is taking care of each other. Children sit, contently, for hours listening to the stories of their grandparents. Families eat all meals together and prepare the food in unity as well. Brothers and sisters remain each other’s greatest companions, despite age. In other countries family is a bond stronger than any latte espresso here in the States.

Through my travels I have witnessed what the phrase family comes first truly means. When I returned home I was saddened to recognize how often American’s threw around the phrase as if it were a common gesture.

I guess when we take into consideration how quickly life passes, it only makes sense that we put down our briefcases, our iPhones, and our T.V. remotes and really appreciate the blessing of family. If you understand that a loved one can be taken from you, ripped from the normality you know as daily life, in an instance, than you understand how precious time together really is.

At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, when will it be that family really does come first? I’ll never forget the day my brother turned to me and said, “If you knew this was your last day to live, who would you say ‘I love you’ to and what are you waiting for?”

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