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This was a meme someone posted on Facebook, recently. Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are.

This was a meme someone posted on Facebook, recently.

Family isn’t always blood.
It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs;
the ones who accept you for who you are.
The ones who would do anything to see you smile 
and who LOVE YOU no matter what.

That really speaks to me.

Being the only child of an only child, family has always been a bit thin on the ground, for me. That being said, I do have a rather large extended family.

My maternal grandmother was one of seven siblings. With the exception of one aunt who became a Nun, her sisters and brother each had between five and seven children.

As a result, I have several dozen second-cousins, most of whom have now had children (and in a few cases, grandchildren) of their own.

As my own parents passed away in 1993, and my grandmother a year later, I have no immediate family remaining.

Still, I do have family.

I have a few very good friends, friends who will welcome me into their home at any time, should I show up on their doorstep. Friends who have given me a key to their home, so I can let myself in if they are not at home.

I have friends whose children and grandchildren call me “Uncle Dave,” not simply as a polite form of address, but because I am “family” to them, as well.

My “niece” — the granddaughter of a long-time friend — came to Camp McDougall this year. While she was one of 27 campers, we did get to spend some time together.

She's a cool kid. Eleven, a bit small for her age, has her own 'fashion sense', and has a quick wit, a great sense of humour, and an inquisitive mind.

During one conversation she mentioned how long it had been since she had last seen me, (I have not been down to visit them in S. Ontario, and she did not come up to the Sault with her grandparents on their last trip here.) and how much she has missed me.

This past week I ran a VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my church, where we had about 50 children attend over the five half-days.

While I don’t consider any of those children to be “family” — about half either attend or are affiliated with my church, the rest are from other churches and the community at large — the opportunity to spend time with these energetic, creative and caring children certainly underscores the benefits of being part of a family.

As with Camp, there were the occasional squabbles and drama — sometimes between siblings, sometimes not — the overall sense of community developed very quickly.

In a larger sense, “family” can be any group to which we belong, if that group gives us unconditional acceptance and support: church, service clubs, sports leagues, or interest groups.

At my church there are a group of ladies who meet weekly to quilt and do other fabric crafts. They are as much a “family” as any blood relations.

Similarly there is another group who meet every-other week to play Skip-Bo, who also could be considered “family.”

On Friday, after wrapping-up VBS, I picked-up my “niece” from her great-grandparents’ and took her out for the afternoon. We went to the Canal and watched a few boats lock through, then headed to the mall for dinner and a movie.

After the movie we strolled through the mall, and bought a couple of books.

I cannot begin to describe the feeling of walking along with a child holding my hand, chatting, shopping; a child who trusts me to look after her, and who has fun being with me.

I mentioned in my last column, and in a few others, my regret at not having children (or grandchildren) of my own. This isn’t the perfect substitute, but it does help fill that void.

I have, over the years, had the opportunity to peak into the lives of quite a few families. I was always been more than a little shocked when I’ve seen friends who did not get along with their siblings, and even when whole families just don’t seem to get along.

I guess the concept of “family” is one of those things you appreciate more when you don’t have it.

That's probably why I am really drawn to stories (books and movies) that are in some way about "family" -- Harry Potter, Despicable Me, Nanny McPhee, Mary Poppins.

On the other hand, we’ve likely all heard the saying that you get a sibling, but you choose a friend. 

And when you get to choose, and be chosen by, a “family” to whom you are not related, but who have accepted each other unconditionally, it means even more.

There’s another old saying: “It doesn’t matter how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.”

By that measure, I am immeasurably wealthy.

I hope you are similarly rich in your lives.

But… that’s just my opinion.