My thoughts (Tyler Connoley):
Better is a neighbor who is nearby than relatives who are far away.
Both in my work as a hospice chaplain and in my work counseling people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, I run across those who feel guilty for choosing family who are not blood relatives.
I think about Chris, a lesbian who built a family of choice when her family of birth rejected her. At Thanksgiving, she and her closest friends would get together and have turkey with all the fixin’s. Then, a couple weeks later, they would have a tree-trimming party. And after that, Christmas followed by New Year’s Eve. It was wonderful, and celebratory, and nurturing, as everything family should be, but by Valentines Day, Chris always felt sad and a little guilty, because she somehow thought she should try harder to spend those holidays with her birth family, even though they had made it clear they didn’t want her around unless she was willing to lie about who she was.
Likewise Andrew, who was dying of cancer, and had a wonderful group of committed friends who were willing to stay with him around the clock. He loved his friends, and was so grateful to them for being there, especially because his children lived two thousand miles away and simply couldn’t afford to leave their jobs to come care for him. However, despite his gratitude to his friends, there were still days when he and I would talk about his fears that maybe he was doing the wrong thing by letting friends do “my family’s job.” He felt he was taking advantage of his friends, and perhaps should be more insistent with this kids.
Intellectually, Chris knew her family of birth didn’t love her in the way her family of choice did. She knew she was making the right decision by spending her precious time with people who supported her fully, but there was still that nagging voice in her head that wondered if she was wrong. Andrew knew his friends wanted to be there for him when his children couldn’t, but something inside him just wouldn’t accept that it was okay to rely on friends for something a family member “should” do.
I wish I had found today’s Scripture before having conversations with Chris and Andrew. According to the writer of this proverb, it’s perfectly acceptable to rely on friends when family aren’t available. The writer even says bluntly, “Don’t go to your relatives in a time of calamity.” Don’t waste your time trying to find a relative who can help you, if a friend is close by.
Thought for the day: Do you have friends you can run to in a time of need? Rather than worry about family who are far away (either emotionally or physically), be grateful for the friends you have who are close by.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.