Over the last half decade I’ve been running into more and more organizations who co-opt the term family to describe how they hope people feel about being part of them.
Is it possible for members of a workplace, religious or community group, or neighbourhood to grow this close? Absolutely. The vast majority of the time this does not happen, though, and it seems insincere and vaguely Newspeak-y to act otherwise.
Your idea of the term family may not line up with my examples of how one functions. I know people who assembled a chosen family after being cut off from their biological one and others who draw a bright, red line between those they are related to through blood, marriage and adoption and everyone else in the world. That’s ok.
- Genuinely wanting the best for someone.
- Knowing about a loved ones medical, religious or ethical diet restrictions and making sure they have more than enough to eat when they come to visit.
- Adopted. Biological. Foster. Step. Once removed. Chosen.
- Helping someone move in the middle of winter.
- Mutual unconditional love and acceptance.
- Holding the fussy baby so a new parent can finally shower and grab a bite to eat.
- Being thrilled when a loved one lands the perfect job or introduces you to their new significant other.
- Slogging through the grief together after a death.
- Saying, “come sleep in my spare room until you get back on your feet!”
- A soft place to fall.
It cannot be compelled into existence. Deciding that an organization or group is a family because you like the sound of the word or want people to remain loyal to the group is about as effective as writing down the name of your favourite extinct animal on a piece of paper, taping it to a cat and then calling the local zoo to ask what they would recommend feeding a [brontosaurus, mammoth, dodo, golden toad, etc.].
I propose that organizations who want to emphasize how well they treat their members or how close everyone is either make up a new word or dust off and re-imagine old terms like horde, sodality or coterie.
What do you think of organizations who refer to their members as a family? Do you agree with my alternatives to that word?