This I Believe

Kara - Tolono, Illinois
Entered on May 9, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

I believe in family. I believe that families do not come in neat little packages all wrapped up in blue-shuttered homes with a dog on the front steps, but in messy assortments of unique faces, proving themselves through loyalty and sincerity. Too often we classify perfection in pretty packages, seeing only the outer shell of our visions, not understanding that true perfection lies in how we see it and what we make of it. Family then are not always related by blood, but are the people that smile at us every day just because they want to see us smile back and people that hold our hands through the tough times, watching us break down and then picking up the pieces of our tattered self-esteem just to glue them back together and help us move on.

Spending much of a weekend trying to contemplate what I believe in, I reflected on times that changed my life—little touches or words or maybe nothing at all, but small moments that changed how I see someone else, myself, or life in general. I remember kneeling at a graveside on graduation night, hand clutching the top of a stone, alternating bowing forward and then looking up at a picture secured in the granite. I remember the face smiling back at me—the football all-star, all-American dream boy, and such a precious friend, silenced in a few tragic moments four days before his sixteenth birthday. I remember tears pouring down relentlessly as this was the first time I had had the courage to visit. But most of all, I remember the quiet figure standing behind me, a friend that had cried with me during the ceremony and was now waiting and watching, silently passing me the strength to stand up and walk away.

Another time, I remember stomping into my brother’s apartment, fuming and raging over fabricated gossip. I ranted for several minutes—my brother standing quietly, but his face growing increasingly somber throughout my tirade. “Where is he? I’ll teach him how he can treat you.” The sincerity of his comment and his rash reaction to my story hit me harder than I could handle, and I began laughing. Few times I remember exactly why I was angry to begin with, but I remember my amusement at his reaction and the unconditional support he lent me.

When I remember the tears, the anger, and the happiness, I remember the people with whom I share these moments. I do not choose them because they fit a beautiful picture or because blood unites us in any way, but they are my family. I called them when I was accepted into college, when my dog died, when I was mad at my parents, when I first fell in love, and when my first love left me. I know their stories as well as they know mine, and we are stronger for it. I know the strength behind people, and that is why I believe in family.